Washington Post falls for April Fools spoof Pfizer pricing story

The Washington Post became the victim of an April Fools prank after it published a story claiming Pfizer would not raise its drug prices, which was based upon a fake press release.

The Post swiftly retracted the story after it became clear the statement was an elaborate hoax from an as-yet unidentified prankster. Pharma has been heavily criticised for high drug prices and yearly steep price increases, and Pfizer announced its own price rises on over 100 drugs in January.

The newspaper gave no further details about the bogus press release that it said came from an unknown person or group” – but the retracted story’s URL indicates the headline was that “Pfizer vows to stop raising the list prices of its drugs”.

According to the Post, the press release was circulated using an email address that appeared to belong to a real Pfizer spokesman. But it used the domain pfizerinternational.com, a fake website that “closely mimics” Pfizer’s, which is no longer accessible.

The Post said its reporter called a false phone number on the press release and heard a message saying the company would not be answering questions about the matter, and left a voicemail.

Pfizer added in a statement: “A false press release related to drug pricing and linking to a fake web site was anonymously issued earlier today.

“It was erroneously attributed to Pfizer and should be disregarded. Pfizer is investigating this matter and evaluating its legal options against the parties responsible. Pfizer is committed to engaging in an honest discussion and real dialogue about the issues that matter to patients.”

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