Take a Pill, or Better Yet, Don’t: Pharmaceutical Fraud
Posted by Pamela S. on Thursday, July 5th, 2012
Almost everyone has been prescribed a medication at one time or other. Do you know how safe the drug you are taking really is? Can you trust pharmaceutical companies that make trillions of dollars by solving our medical problems with a pill? Many drugs have saved lives, but we have all seen the ads with side effects that sound worse than the actual condition being treated. When pharmaceutical companies commit fraud, it’s not just about the money. Lives are at risk.
I never take a pill without looking up all of the side effects. A major side effect of prescription drugs includes the unethical or illegal practices of some major pharmaceutical companies who want to get that pill on your tongue, or that drug into your bloodstream at any cost.
This week, GlaxoSmithKline Plc agreed to pay $3 billion and plead guilty to misdemeanor criminal charges for a settlement in the largest case of healthcare fraud in U.S. history. The pharmaceutical company broke U.S. laws regarding marketing and development of pharmaceuticals when they marketed Wellbutrin for unapproved uses, including treatment of sexual dysfunction and weight loss. The settlement stems from an investigation led by the U.S. Justice Department.
GSK also promoted the antidepressant drug Paxil to patients under 18. It was only approved for adults. The company was negligent in providing safety data about Avandia, a diabetes drug, to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. GSK used illegal kickbacks , incentives and misleading advertising to entice doctors to prescribe their medications.
This isn’t the first time this has happened. Unfortunately, it won’t be the last. Drug companies are at war with each other for that prescription money.
In December, 2011, Merck Sharp & Dohme pled guilty to violating the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) for misbranded the drug Vioxx and making false statements about the cardiovascular safety of the drug. As someone who was prescribed Vioxx for my arthritis pain, it hit home how placing your trust in a pharmaceutical company could put your health at risk.
Pfizer Inc. and its subsidiary Pharmacia & Upjohn Company Inc. were also involved in a health fraud settlement for misbranding the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug Bextra. The company pled guilty in 2009 and agreed to pay $2.3 billion dollars. Under the Civil False Claims Act, it was determined that Pfizer also illegally promoted a number of other drugs: an anti-psychotic drug, Geodon; the antibiotic Zyvox; and Lyrica, an anti-epileptic drug.
The FBI works in conjunction with the FDA, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Justice and other agencies to combat this horrendous crime.
Damages from pharmaceutical fraud are often recovered by use of the False Claims Act. Qui Tam provisions reward whistleblowers or relators who provide information to the authorities. Former Pfizer Inc. sales representative, John Kopchinski, was the whistleblower in the Bextra investigation and was awarded $51.5 million as part of the civil suit. This award is separate from any criminal fines, which are usually substantial.
The pharmaceutical companies have deep pockets, but that doesn’t mean we should continue to blindly swallow what they feed us. Ask your doctor and your pharmacist questions. Do your research before taking a medication that is recently on the market, or was originally prescribed for other conditions. Check Internet forums and read what patients who have taken these drugs are saying. Be a smart consumer.
Former FBI Assistant Director Tom Sheer has recruited the best from the FBI, DEA, IRS and Secret Service to build a formidable team at Sheer Investigations. Our private investigators have the sensitivity and experience to handle the most delicate investigations.