Sales breaches cost Pfizer, Roche, Glaxo

Drugmakers were hit with a record $1.8 million in fines by Australia's industry self-regulator, some for slamming rivals' products, and others for putting on lavish "educational" presentations for doctors. Pfizer got the dubious honor of the largest fine, a record in itself at $200,000. Sales reps apparently told doctors that cholesterol-lowering drug from AstraZeneca could cause kidney damage; the company said reps may have made those statements, but Pfizer managers didn't know anything about it.

Some fines were the result of tattle-taling by other drugmakers: Roche was hit with a $110,000 penalty after GlaxoSmithKline complained that the Swiss drugmaker had sent out media releases promoting products for unapproved uses. GSK, for its part, had to pay $100,000 after rivals told regulators that it was distributing deceptive promo materials.

GSK also had to pay a total of $210,000 in fines for two doctors' conferences at luxury hotels in Sydney. One of the events cost $102,970 to stage, with almost 90 percent of that spent on lodging, food, entertainment, and the like--and "less than five hours of actual education was provided." Solvay Pharmaceuticals paid $100,000 for two events, one of which included an overnight in wine country, with a $217-a-head dinner--and just two hours of education.

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