Former Pfizer statistician found guilty of insider trading on Paxlovid trial results

A jury has found a former Pfizer statistician guilty of insider trading after a two-week trial in federal court in the Southern District of New York.

The jury convicted Amit Dagar, 44, of Hillsborough, N.J., of using advance information on successful trial results for Pfizer’s COVID-19 treatment Paxlovid to make trades.

Prosecutors alleged that Dagar purchased short-term stock options the day before Pfizer released trial data, which triggered an 11% surge in the share price for the company on Nov. 5, 2021, the largest one-day move for the stock since 2009. In the weeks after his stock purchases, Dagar sold them for a profit of more than $270,000, prosecutors said.

In addition, Dagar was charged with sharing the information with his friend, Atul Bhiwapukar, 45, of Milpitas, California, who also purchased short-term stock options. 

According to charging documents from a parallel civil action from the Securities and Exchange Commission, the trades also generated profits of $60,300 for Bhiwapukar, who pleaded guilty in October.

The securities fraud convictions for Dagar and Bhiwapukar carry a maximum sentence of 20 years. The deal Bhiwapukar made for his guilty plea has a guideline sentence of 10 to 16 months. His sentencing is set for Feb. 27.

Dagar also was convicted of conspiracy to commit securities fraud, which carries a five-year maximum sentence. U.S. District Judge Andrew Carter will determine the sentence for Dagar.

“The proof at trial was overwhelming that Amit Dagar stole information about Paxlovid from his employer, Pfizer, and used that illegal edge to profit in the stock market,” Damian Williams, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a release.

Pfizer made waves in November of 2021 when it announced that the oral antiviral Paxlovid reduced hospitalizations and death by 89%, trumping a similar product from Merck. A month later, the FDA approved Paxlovid for emergency use and in 2022, the product generated sales of $18.9 billion.

Prosecutors said that Dagar was a senior statistical program lead for the Paxlovid trial and learned from his supervisor before trial results were released that the company “got the outcome.” Dagar’s lawyer argued that Dagar’s role on the blinded side of the study did not allow him access to the results and that he wasn’t tipped off.