A pharmaceutical giant has broken yet another record for legal settlements (fines) stemming from claims of illegally marketing drugs and defrauding federal healthcare programs. Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK) said this week that it would pay $3 billion (that is billion with a “B” — three thousand million dollars) to resolve federal government civil and criminal investigations into its sales practices for numerous drugs. The cases included allegations of illegal selling / promotion of Avandia, a DIABETES
drug linked to heart problems — no real surprise here. No real surprise as to how they pulled this thing off either —- paying doctors and manipulating medical research to promote the drug. Does anyone remember the blog on the ridiculously common practice of GHOST-WRITING MEDICAL STUDIES
? This is where Drug Companies forge data, then pay doctors big bucks to sign off on the research as though everything were above board (more in a moment). Still another reason that you cannot for even one second think that EVIDENCE-BASED MEDICINE
is a possibility under our current system.
GSK’s settlement will be the largest to date among federal cases against pharmaceutical companies accused of off-label marketing (research and marketing for things the drug is not designed to do), eclipsing the previous record of $2.3 billion paid by Pfizer in 2009 (see above link). GSK’s previous record fine was $1 billion for birth defects caused by its ANTI-DEPRESSION MEDICATION PAXIL. However, in October 2010, it set another record, paying a fine of $150 million, the largest ever to settle criminal charges for knowingly marketing products produced at a contaminated facility (Puerto Rico), including Paxil, Avandia (which increases risk of heart failure by 60 percent, heart attack by 40 percent, and death in patients age 65 and over by 30 percent), Bactroban — an ANTIBIOTIC OINTMENT; Coreg — a heart drug; and Tagamet — an ACID REFLUX drug. Hey; it’s OK —- they said they were sorry.
Thank you GlaxoSmithKline! Hey; I know people that would rat out their Grandma for fifty bucks. The government is offering better deals than that —- much better. Ms. Eckard will collect $96 million from the federal government (10%), and she will collect additional millions from individual states for her “whistleblowing” against GSK in a previous case. Not yet sure who is going to collect money on the current case, but here is an interesting fun fact for you.
When I heard last week that the fine for GSK was set at 3 billion dollars, I was shocked. I figured that this kind of fine would break the company’s back. Little did I know. That very day, GSK’s stock actually rose on the news that they had known this fine was coming (the investigation had been going on since 2004), and had already set the money aside in a separate account —- as cash. This was simply the price of doing business for another Pharmaceutical Giant.
If you think that drugs are safe, and that pharmaceutical companies are out for your best interest, you seriously need to think twice. These companies have proved time and time again that they put profits above all else (HERE). However, don’t think that the FDA is really here to help you either. The very drugs that both Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline were fined for —- they’re still on the market. All of them!