In a rare move, the Justice Department on Tuesday announced that it had charged a former vice president and top lawyer for the British drug giant GlaxoSmithKline with making false statements and obstructing a federal investigation into illegal marketing of the antidepressant Wellbutrin for weight loss. The indictment grabbed the attention of pharmaceutical executives who have been bracing for a long-promised government crackdown on company officials — rather than the corporations themselves — in drug-fraud cases that have resulted in billions of dollars in fines and payments. “This is absolutely precedent-setting — this is really going to set people’s hair on fire,” said Douglas B. Farquhar, a Washington lawyer who recently presided at a panel on law enforcement during a drug industry conference where federal officials warned they were focusing on individuals. “This is indicative of the F.D.A. and Justice strategy to go after the very top-ranking managing officials at regulated companies.”
A former lawyer for pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline Plc has been indicted for lying and obstructing an investigation into the company’s promotion of an anti-depressant drug, the U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday. The lawyer, Lauren Stevens, was indicted on four counts of making false statements, one count of obstruction of justice and one count of falsifying and concealing documents related to Glaxo’s promotion of the drug for weight loss, which had not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. “Where the facts and law allow, the Justice Department will pursue individuals responsible for illegal conduct just as vigorously as we pursue corporations,” said Tony West, head of the Justice Department’s civil division.
Even by Miami-Dade’s reputation for Medicare fraud, the indictment was a shocker: American Therapeutic’s patients could not feed themselves or control their own bodily waste. Many lacked the mental capacity to respond to counseling; instead they simply stared at walls or watched TV. An employee complained that those patients should be ineligible for Medicare since they could not benefit from treatment.She got fired. That launched whistle-blower and criminal investigations that led to the Justice Department’s takedown Thursday of Miami-based American Therapeutic Corp., the nation’s largest chain of mental health clinics.