A week after testing his "let's follow the rules" message in the U.K., Pfizer chief Jeffrey Kindler (photo) has brought it home to the U.S. And this time, he addressed the elephant in the room directly: The little matter of his company's record-breaking off-label marketing settlement with the Justice Department that included a felony plea for one of its subsidiaries. "You're probably asking yourself, 'Jeff, who are you to talk about trust?'' he told the audience at a Boston College Chief Executives Club luncheon (as quoted by Reuters). "That's a fair question."
No kidding. The CEO of a multinational company caught breaking the rules is now lecturing the world about following them? Well, Kindler says, it's nothing we haven't said to ourselves at Pfizer. The company has done some soul-searching, and it's revamping its approach, especially to sales. "We are trying to change," Kindler said (as quoted by the Boston Herald). "We expect to be held accountable."
No more golf trips for doctors, Kindler vowed. No more fancy dinners, no more freebies for physician offices. And other businesses need to take their own steps toward more ethical behavior, whatever those steps might be, he advises. Otherwise, as he said last week, the government will do it--and this is something he knows firsthand, thanks to the $2.3 billion settlement with Justice. That deal requires Pfizer to disclose payments and gifts to doctors and set up a way for doctors to report overzealous, misbehaving sales folks.
"[W]hen the majority of people don't trust you, they'll find a way to force you to change," Kindler said at the luncheon. Well put. And for Pfizer's sake we hope the company doesn't run afoul of Kindler's very public promises. If distrust was high before, then it would really hit the roof if the reform turned out to be a sham.