Pfizer joins DOJ probe into claims pharma bribes funded Iraqi terrorists

Pfizer sign
Pfizer, Roche, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca are part of a lawsuit alleging the companies obtained contracts by paying bribes to terrorists in Iraq. (Tracy Staton)

Pfizer has joined three of its Big Pharma peers in a Department of Justice probe examining allegations that the companies paid bribes to a terrorist-run health ministry in Iraq.

The Justice Department's inquiries stem from a lawsuit, filed last fall, in which veterans and their families accused Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Roche and Johnson & Johnson of paying bribes to win business from the Iraqi ministry of health at a time when the ministry was controlled by terrorists.

In its second quarter SEC filing (PDF), Pfizer said the Justice Department requested documents about the allegations laid out in the lawsuit. A Pfizer spokeswoman said the company is cooperating with the request.

At the time of the lawsuit, a Pfizer spokesperson said the drugmaker "categorically denies any wrongdoing."

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RELATED: Veterans' lawsuit claims Big Pharma bribes in Iraq helped finance terrorism 

The suit alleges the companies paid bribes to terrorists that "openly controlled the Iraqi ministry in charge of importing medical goods." The plaintiffs contend the drug companies "obtained lucrative contracts from that ministry by making corrupt payments to the terrorists who ran it." 

In recent weeks, all drugmakers involved in the lawsuit have acknowledged a DOJ investigation into the allegations. In an email to FiercePharma, a Roche spokeswoman said the company “has received an inquiry from and is cooperating with the Department of Justice on this matter.” AZ disclosed a probe in a quarterly filing. A representative for that company said the drugmaker has a “robust and dynamic compliance program, and we refuse to tolerate bribery or any other form of corruption.” 

RELATED: Roche, Johnson & Johnson pulled into Justice Department probe of alleged terrorist bribes 

Johnson & Johnson disclosed a probe, but a spokesperson didn't respond to a FiercePharma request for comment. General Electric is also part of the lawsuit, but the company hasn't disclosed a DOJ probe.

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