Justice to Pharma: “Do the Perp Walk!”
Former GSK counsel is the first target in government’s executive-liability crackdown. Could J&J be next? The US Department of Justice filed criminal charges last week against Lauren Stevens, a former VP and assistant general counsel at GlaxoSmithKline. Going after pharma execs marks a seismic shift in the government’s efforts to stem the tide of fraud and other illegal pharma marketing practices, which a raft of billion-dollar settlements have so far failed to end. Stevens is charged with obstruction of an investigation, concealment and falsification of documents, and making false statements to the FDA in its 2002 investigation of off-label promotion of the antidepressant Wellbutrin for weight loss, an indication for which it has never been approved but has shown some clinical benefit. The DoJ says that it has evidence, in the vast paper and electronic documentation turned over by GSK, showing that Stevens hid and otherwise misled the agency about some 1,000 instances of GSK-paid doctors promoting Wellbutrin for weight loss to other doctors.