Part of the case made by U.S. prosecutors that led to GlaxoSmithKline‘s $3 billion settlement today is that the company used a network of paid experts, speaking to doctors and to the press, to promote uses of its drugs that had not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. According to the Department of Justice’s complaint, one of those paid experts was celebrity physician Dr. Drew Pinsky, then the host of the radio show Loveline, which was also being broadcast on MTV. Pinsky has gone on to host Celebrity Rehab, Dr. Drew on HLN, and Dr. Drew’s Lifechangers on the CW.
What irony. Detroit mother, Maryanne Godboldo, was just charged with child neglect for refusing to obey a Child Protective Services order to give her daughter Risperdal, a powerful psychoactive drug. Meanwhile federal and multiple state prosecutors are suing Johnson & Johnson for deceptively marketing the drug – including mismarketing its use on children – and hiding dangerous adverse effects. J&J now faces a potential $1 billion in damages.
Having earlier observed the drug’s dreadful effects on her child, Maryanne was correctly pursuing holistic treatment for the child instead when the legal battle began. The jury’s ruling, now handed down against the mother, is not only a travesty of justice, but a reflection of psychopharma’s vast propaganda machine.
In 2008, the FDA declared that powerful antipsychotics such as AstraZeneca (AZN)’s Seroquel were being over-prescribed and started a monitoring initiative to curb their use. It hasn’t worked, judging by an analysis of the FDA’s adverse event database by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices.
Seroquel is only approved for schizophrenia, mania and bipolar disorders. It’s a powerful drug that has serious side effects if taken for a long time: It’s associated with weight gain and diabetes, among other problems.
Thursday’s deal is the second multimillion-dollar Seroquel settlement brought by government prosecutors in the past two years. Last April AstraZeneca agreed to pay $520 million to settle similar allegations brought by the federal Department of Justice.
The new settlement stemmed from a separate three-year investigation led by the Attorney General of New Jersey. As part of the agreement AstraZeneca must publish any gifts or payments to physicians on a public website. The company also agreed to make sure that payment incentives to sales representatives do not encourage off-label promotion.
Allegations of off-label drug marketing have become increasingly common in the past decade, with the drug industry eclipsing all others as the source of fraud-related settlements with the federal government. Approximately 80 percent of the $3.1 billion in penalties collected last fiscal year by the government came from the health care sector, including drugmakers, insurers and hospitals, according to Taxpayers Against Fraud.
A whistleblower lawsuit filed against Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) didn’t get much attention in the media because the unproven accusations within it — paying kickbacks to nursing home pharmacy Omnicare (OCR) — sounded familiar. But the details in the complaint are worth exploring because they go further than the usual allegations of paying for no-work contracts to boost pharmacy distribution of their drugs.