According to the terms of the settlement, $10.75 million would go to the Department of Justice and $9.25 million to monitoring patients who received the device at Veterans Administration hospitals or pay for its removal. (Related: Pfizer has a shockingly long history of engaging in illegal activities and human experimentation.)
The mechanical heart valve in question is the Bjork-Shiley convexo-concave heart valve. Pfizer acquired the valve after acquiring Shiley Laboratories, the company that originally manufactured the valve and held the patent. From 1979 to 1986, when the valve was finally taken off the market after years of reports of fatal defects, about 86,000 Bjork-Shiley valves were implanted into patients all over the world.
By 1992, at least 300 people in the United States had been killed by the defective heart valve, which could fracture and possibly kill the recipient.
Thousands more people from all over the world would undergo reoperations to replace the valves within years following Pfizer's settlement with the federal government. Dozens, possibly hundreds of these people would end up dying, either as a result of complications caused by the replacement surgery or due to defects in the valves themselves.
Pfizer's deal with the government was strongly criticized by consumer rights activists, who urged government officials to bring criminal charges against the Big Pharma company. They also tried to lobby the government for steeper penalties against the multibillion-dollar corporation.
While these efforts were unsuccessful, it should be noted that Pfizer did not just pay $20 million. In 1992, two years before Pfizer reached a settlement with the federal government, a federal judge in Cincinnati sided with about 51,000 recipients of the defective heart valve who had come together to levy a class-action lawsuit against the Big Pharma company.
Pfizer made an offer to pay $215 million in the settlement, in addition to other benefits. Despite pleas from many of the lawyers in the class action suit, the judge agreed to the settlement.
According to the terms of the settlement, $75 million would be set aside for research into better techniques for identifying which heart valve recipients are at greater risk of experiencing fractures. Between $90 million to $140 million of the payout would go to heart valve recipients for medical or psychological consultations as well as compensation to the patients and their spouses.
This works out to paying between $2,500 to $4,000 per patient. In today's dollars, this would amount to $5,310 to $8,496 per patient. Ross, who was 68 in 1992, noted that the offer of up to $4,000 was just "a drop in the bucket" for Pfizer.
"You never know what is going to happen," she said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. "You try to make the best of it, but you are always living in fear. I feel so violated to think that they could put something in my chest that wasn't perfect."
Learn more about Pfizer and other Big Pharma companies and their illicit activities at BigPharmaNews.com.
Watch this clip from InfoWars featuring Dr. Robert Malone, the inventor of mRNA technology, talking about Pfizer's long criminal record.