A former district sales manager was charged last week in a four-count indictment with obstruction of justice for altering and deleting documents from his own computer and for directing sales reps to wipe out info from their computers about off-label promotion, according to theUS Attorney in Boston.
Thomas Farina, 41, and the reps who reported to him allegedly took these actions in the summer of 2004, when they knew Pfizer was under investigation for promoting the unnamed drug for unapproved uses - and after they were specifically instructed to preserve all related documents, according to the US Attorney's office. Reached at home, Farina declined to comment and his attorney refused to respond to several messages. UPDATE: The Pfizer drugs approved for the uses described in the indictment are Bextra, which is no longer sold, and Celebrex.
A Pfizer spokesman wrote us to say: "Pfizer terminated Mr. Farina and certain other employees several years ago and voluntarily reported this conduct to the Justice Department. Pfizer has strict and extensive policies to ensure the appropriate retention of documents, and we have cooperated fully and continuously with the gvernment's investigation." That investigation, by the way, is ongoing.
This is the indictment, although here are a few specifics....
- Prior to the summer of 2004, Farina directed sales reps to promote a drug for usage and at doses that had specifically been denied approval by the FDA over safety concerns about those uses and higher dosages;
- In early 2004, the drugmaker, Farina and the reps were aware of the investigation. In March 2004, the drugmaker issued a document hold to its sales force concerning that drug, including Farina and his reps. In the summer of 2004, the drugmaker was in the process of collecting relevant documents from its employees computers relating to the promotion of that drug, in response to the government’s investigation;
- In the summer of 2004, Farina changed the clock on his computer and then altered and resaved documents in order to make them appear to have been last altered at an earlier time. He then deleted some or all of these documents, which included protocols and standing orders prepared or promoted by his sales reps that for the drug at unapproved dosages and for unapproved uses;
- Also in the summer of 2004, Farina caused another sales rep to alter documents and backdate the alterations on his computer in a similar manner to delete the reference to the drug and/or unapproved uses and dosages that had been promoted improperly by that rep;
- And in the summer of 2004, Farina caused another sales rep to alter and/or delete documents from his computer and the computers of others that reflected FARINA’s instructions to his sales reps to promote the drug for unapproved uses and dosages.
If convicted on these charges, Farina faces up to 20 years’ imprisonment, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine for each count of the four counts.