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Pfizer's Big News. Or Is It?

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AP

Lost in the coverage of the Pfizer-Wyeth deal that day, but nonetheless disclosed in the company's simultaneous earnings release back on January 26thof this year, PFE revealed it had taken a $2.3 billion charge for a pending settlement over marketing.

So, at first, it seemed like big breaking news when word came this morning that the U.S. Department of Justice had struck a $2.3 billion deal with the world's biggest drug company. Interestingly (coincidence?), it happened on the same day Pfizer was featured prominently in a rare positive light on the front page of "The New York Times." It's a story about how much the company is spending on cancer drug research.

The DOJ called a news conference to announce the guilty plea by Pfizer and all of the money it would pay as punishment. It was a big show. But it got relatively little media play. For CNBC's investor audience, it turned out this was essentially old news.

I think the Feds were probably hoping for more.

President Obama has recently come under fire for allegedly getting too cozy with big pharma by striking an $80 billion backroom healthcare reform deal that may or may not hold up. The $2.3 billion deal might have been seen as a way to show that the administration still isn't afraid to go after the powerful drug companies.

The problem is, based on the timing of Pfizer's original disclosure - at the very least - the price tag of the settlement had been fixed and literally accounted for even before Obama took the oath of office.

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com and follow me on Twitter at mhuckman