Pfizer caught editing negative information about its products on wikipedia

By RunRedFox · Sep 13, 2007 · ·
  1. RunRedFox
    September 12, 2007

    Covington & Burling, a Pfizer law firm, caught cleaning up its reputation on Wikipedia.

    We recently wrote that several drug companies have been caught deleting important information from Wikipedia, in order to downplay the risk of their drugs.

    Now the law firms working for the drug companies are getting caught doing the same thing and we got this story from the outstanding blog ClinPsych.
    Covington & Burling, one of the largest white-shoe law firms in the country, representing AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Novartis, Schering-Plough and Pfizer, just got caught very red handed deleting Wikipedia entries about the firm like crazy. Seems like them lawyers aren't that smart after all . . .
    [Update, here is another Pfizer law firm we found doing hilarious edits: Ropes & Gray, yet another Pfizer law firm caught changing Wikipedia. Click on link to learn about their "epic parties," "phenomenal dining," "summer of ecstacy," and even "cool summer associates" like Seth Piken and his office-mate, "the jerk."]

    If you want to see for yourself what the glorious lawyers at Covington & Burling have been up to, go here. If you just want the facts, keep on reading:

    One entry deleted was the connection between Covington & Burling and secret societes:

    There have been many connections drawn between Covington & Burling and the Skull & Bones or Illuminati. One notable connection is William P. Bundy who started out his career in 1947 working for Covington & Burling. In 1951 Bundy quit Covington & Burling to begin openly working for the CIA as an analyst, and then as assistant to the deputy director of the CIA.

    Another deletion dealt with Covington & Burlings involvment with mad cows and toxic smoke:

    In April 2004, the Washington DC newspaper The Hill reported: "Creekstone Farms Quality Beef, which has been battling the U.S. Department of Agriculture to get permission to test its cattle for mad cow disease, has hired Covington & Burling to help it make its case."[2]

    At the time, Creekstone was one of two U.S. beef producers who were seeking to resume exports to Japan, South Korea and other countries by testing every head of cattle they processed for mad cow disease.
    According to a September 2003 press release from the firm, Covington & Burling successfully argued on behalf of the Southern Peru Copper Corporation to drop a lawsuit brought against it under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) by Peruvian citizens charging the copper company with polluting communities and causing health problems. ATCA has been used to address serious human rights violations in places like Burma and East Timor. In their release, Covington & Burling decried the "aggressive, expansionist plaintiffs' litigation" under ATCA.[3]

    Covington & Burling also served as corporate affairs consultants to the Philip Morris group of companies, according to a 1993 internal budget review document which indicated the firm was paid $280,000 to "serve as general counsel to the Consumer Products Company Tort Coalition, agree the legal objectives with member company litigators, draft legislation and amendments, prepare lobby papers and testimony for legislative committees and administer the coalition's budget". [4]

    During the $280 billion U.S. federal lawsuit against big tobacco, Covington & Burling partner John Rupp, a former lawyer with the industry-funded Tobacco Institute, testified that "the industry sought out scientists and paid them to make an 'objective appraisal' of whether secondhand smoke was harmful to non-smokers, a move they hoped would dispel the 'extreme views' of some anti-smoking activists." He "said the scientists, who came from prestigious institutions such as Georgetown University and the University of Massachusetts, did not consider themselves to be working 'on behalf' of cigarette makers even though they were being paid by the industry." Rupp said, "We were paying them to share their views in forums where they would be usefully presented," according to Reuters. [5]

    Something else the Covington people didn't like was for people to learn their association with Halliburton and the following was deleted:

    In 2003 Halliburton hired the firm to lobby Washington on behalf of its KBR Government Operations division, the same division being pummeled by the media, the Pentagon and Congress for its handling of Iraq contracts. Covington & Burling was paid $520,000 to handle "inquiries concerning company's construction and service contracts in Iraq," the firm said in a filing.

    According to the filing, Covington & Burling listed the following people as lobbyists for Halliburton/KBR: Roderick A. DeArment, who was chief of staff to now-retired Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS); Martin B. Gold, former counsel to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN); Stuart E. Eizenstat, U.S. ambassador to the European Union during the Clinton administration; Alan A. Pemberton, coordinator of the firm's government contracts practice; David M. Marchick, who served in various posts in the Clinton administration; Jack L. Schenendorf; Peter Flanagan; Jennifer Plitsch; Benjamin J. Razi; and Allegra Lane.

    Halliburton's lobbying expenses are disclosed in documents submitted under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, which requires congressional and executive branch lobbyists to disclose their lobbying activities twice per year. Each year the information is disclosed at the Senate Office of Public Records.
    In 2003 Halliburton hired the firm to lobby Washington on behalf of its KBR Government Operations division, the same division being pummeled by the media, the Pentagon and Congress for its handling of Iraq contracts. Covington & Burling was paid $520,000 to handle "inquiries concerning company's construction and service contracts in Iraq," the firm said in a filing.

    And Covington didn’t like this description of the firm:

    Covington & Burling is a major legal and lobbying firm focused on "industry and regulatory" and "corporate, tax and benefits" issues, and litigation.[1] They have U.S. offices in Washington DC, New York City and San Francisco, and European offices in London and Brussels.

    Instead, they wrote this:

    Covington & Burling LLP is a leading international law firm with more than 600 lawyers practicing in Brussels, London, New York, San Francisco, and Washington. Founded in 1919, the firm advises leading multinationals on many of their most significant transactional, litigation, regulatory, and public policy matters. The firm has long emphasized the strength of its Corporate and Litigation Practices derived from the firm's industry expertise acquired through its broad regulatory expertise. Representative clients include The National Football League, Microsoft, PBS, and The Washington Post. Covington's pro bono program has been recognized as preeminent in the legal community. As part of its pro bono program, the firm has rotation programs, which allow attorneys and staff to work for six months at three local legal services organizations - Neighborhood Legal Services Program (NLSP), the Children's Law Center (CLC), or Bread for the City (BFTC).

    To do your own detective work on Wikipedia use the


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  1. toe
    This particularly disturbing in light of the fact that the public seems to have more faith in the veracity of certain areas of Wikipedia-knowledge than others, science being among them. Correct me if I'm wrong.

    It seems the general consensus that "academic" articles hold more solid testimony than "current events" articles. Pfizer is a presently operating business interest in pharmacology (money>discovery), making it at least as much current event as it is science. However, they devote a lot of resources to making themselves appear to be a research institution first, a corporation second. It's easy to be suckered into believing the blurbs these companies write for the PDR and the "research papers" they subsidize to report on selected trials which control to minimize the occurence of adverse reactions.

    Disgusting. SWIM needs to go wash her brain out with soap.
  2. Alfa
    In Holland academic students are not allowed to use Wikipedia as source for their work at all.
  3. RunRedFox
    In the United States we are also not allowed to use wikipedia for scholarly work, however alot of people use wikipedia when look up general drugs or just concepts they dont know. this could prove to be dangerous if looking into a new medication...
  4. Zaprenz
    Even though it is ultimately open to bias and incorrect information SWIM still finds it very useful for general information.

    Topics involving pharmacology are easier than others to check as usually they are published medical references found on for example pubmed or pubchem.

    ^although I guess its the information which isn't present that can be the problem sometimes.

    Read with a pinch of salt and accepting it might not be 100% SWIM is still a WIKI fan :thumbsup:
  5. toe
    Maybe I didn't word that as precisely as I could have. (I tried, honest- see my signature!) I was describing the way the general public (=not one isolated group, such as scholars) tends to view Wikipedia. To the best of my knowledge, students aren't allowed to cite Wikipedia or any other general reference source anywhere on the planet. The ants trailing up my kitchen counter tell me that internet sources are not considered acceptable in their field at all.

    What I meant to say is that-in casual conversation- Wikipedia is more likely to be respected as a neutral and accurate source for asserting facts related to the Mesolithic Era (an academic topic) than to Mumia Abu-Jamal's case (a current event).

    Please don't be offended if I've over-explained- it wouldn't be the first time I inadvertantly assumed that a misunderstanding in written communication was due to language barrier rather than me just being too cryptic.* Oddly enough, it's only happened with those who I never would have pinned as non-native English speakers had that fact not been explicitly disclosed.

    I'm just not really sure how "citing Wikipedia in papers" was derived from what I wrote, and felt it imperative to assure all D-Fers that Amerikkka is not, in fact, quite that backward.

    *Although I like to think of it as "succinct".
  6. Beeker
    This local bar I haunt for 9-ball has Wifi ... I use my Core Duo laptop in my car to change the wiki to win bets with drunks.

    "See?! I told you the Soviet Union drilled a hole half way to the center of the Earth! Pay up!"
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