Pfizer is defending a whistleblower lawsuit alleging wrongful acts related to its development of the experimental mRNA COVID-19 vaccine by asking the court to dismiss the case because the federal government was aware of any fraud being committed.
The lawsuit was filed by Brook Jackson against Pfizer and two of its contractors under the federal False Claims Act, alleging the defendants manipulated data and committed fraud regarding the clinical trials of the vaccine.
The statute permits awards to whistleblowers who disclose acts of fraud that cause financial loss to the federal government and taxpayers.
The lawsuit is on hold as the court considers a motion to dismiss the case filed by Pfizer. The motion states the court should dismiss the case because the federal government chose to continue working with Pfizer even after it became aware of the company’s wrongful acts.
Pfizer is attempting to rely on a 2016 decision by the Supreme Court that expands the legal principle of “materiality” under the statute which has resulted in many lower federal court dismissals of cases brought under the False Claims Act.
The Supreme Court case can be used as support for an argument that fraud is not “material” if the federal government continues to pay a contractor despite knowing about fraudulent activity.
Attorney Robert Barnes represents Jackson and told reporters that the pharmaceutical giant is claiming it should be allowed to get away with fraud if it can show the government “would write them a check despite knowing about the fraud.”
Barnes added that Pfizer is one of the “most criminally fined drug companies in the world” and now wants to fight against the passage of laws that are designed to improve accountability.
In response to the case that weakened the statute, a bill was introduced in Congress last July titled the “False Claims Amendments Act of 2021.” That bill is designed to strengthen the act and improve anti-retaliation provisions that would protect the blacklisting of whistleblowers from employment.
Pfizer hired a high-powered lobbying team in December to fight against the bill. No action has been taken on the bill in Congress since that time.
Barnes went on to say the case is of vital importance to the public, as it will “determine if Big Pharma can rip off the American people using a dangerous drug that harms millions without any legal remedy because they claim the government was in on the scam.”
Jackson’s lawsuit relies on documents she has provided that include evidence of falsified clinical data and blind tests. Her documents also indicate that administrators had no certifications or medical training and operated with “very little oversight.”
Barnes said he will file a brief in opposition to Pfizer’s motion in the next month and expects the judge may issue a ruling by this fall.