Congress Investigates Allegations Against Pfizer

Drug giant accused of targeting African American patients for high risk studies

Congress Investigates Allegations Against Pfizer
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Congress Investigates Allegations Against Pfizer

Drug giant Pfizer has until the end of this month to respond to allegations that its Wyeth unit targeted African Americans when testing off-label uses of a kidney transplant medicine. WNPR’s Harriet Jones reports.

Congressman Ed Towns of New York, who’s chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has written to Pfizer CEO Jeffrey Kindler, looking for answers on Wyeth’s handling of Rapamune. The drug has been in use among kidney patients for a decade, but two former sales reps from Wyeth filed a whistleblower lawsuit alleging that the company deliberately targeted treatment centers with a high number of African American patients when asking physicians to test higher doses of the drug, and encouraged doctors to treat patients with Rapamune alone, instead of in combination with other drugs.

Towns has likened this to the infamous Tuskegee experiments, in which treatment for syphilis was withheld from a large group of black patients in order to study the progress of the disease.

Pfizer, which acquired Wyeth last year, says the drug has never been contraindicated for African American patients, and that at the time of FDA approval, Wyeth had agreed to study the drug in high-immunologic risk patient populations. Pfizer says it will fully cooperate with Towns’ investigation.

For WNPR, I'm Harriet Jones.