April Fool's Day Comes Early With Pfizer Press Release Hoax

  • Washington Post publishes, retracts story based on release
  • Pfizer says it's investigating and exploring legal options

April Fool’s Day came early for the U.S. health-care industry.

A fake press release detailing Pfizer Inc.’s plans to stop raising the prices of its drugs led to the retraction of a Washington Post story Thursday, after the newspaper learned the statement was a hoax.

The bogus release, sent from an e-mail address using the name of an actual Pfizer spokesman, said the drugmaker would “cease routine price increases” and reduce the prices of its drugs in order to increase patients’ access to their products.

“The story was removed because it was based on a press release that Pfizer confirmed was false and not sent by the company,” Washington Post spokeswoman Shani George said.

Whoever sent the hoax played on the fact that the industry has been under fire in recent months for skyrocketing drug prices, after examples of thousand-percent hikes hit the headlines and prompted a Congressional inquiry into the issue. A call to a phone number on the statement wasn’t returned.

“Pfizer is investigating this matter and evaluating its legal options against the parties responsible,” the drugmaker said in a verified statement.

The counterfeit release included a link to a site that mirrored the appearance of Pfizer’s own corporate communications page, with links to pages on the drugmaker’s actual site.

It’s not unusual for media outlets to receive false statements with overtones of parody on April Fool’s day. Not so common on March 31.

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