Pfizer reports 'potentially improper' payments to feds

Pfizer ($PFE) has flagged U.S. authorities about some "potentially improper payments" overseas, the Dow Jones reports, and it's in talks with the feds about them. Information about the payments, made "in connection with certain sales activities outside the U.S.," was provided to the Securities & Exchange Commission and Justice Department, which has been busy probing drugmakers for potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

The FCPA prohibits U.S. companies from bribing foreign officials to get their business. Drugmakers have come under scrutiny because  they are sometimes asked for bribes in return for business when marketing their products to state-run health systems. As Dow Jones notes, Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay $70 million-plus to resolve claims that it bribed doctors in three European countries and paid kickbacks in Iraq while Saddam Hussein was in power.

Other drugmakers remain under investigation. Eli Lilly has disclosed it's in talks with government officials to resolve an investigation involving potential FCPA violations. AstraZeneca has said it is cooperating with requests for information about its foreign activities. Bristol-Myers Squibb, Baxter and Merck have been contacted by the feds as well, Pharmalot reports.

Pfizer's "potentially improper payments" are also under investigation in other countries, the company disclosed in the SEC filing. The company also disclosed several other probes, including a tax-related civil and criminal investigation in Germany and consumer-protection inquiries in several U.S. states about its marketing of the pain drug Lyrica and antibiotic Zyvox.

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