Three San Diego doctors [all psychiatrists] who prescribe medications at the same time they are paid by drug companies as experts on the products figure into a broader national debate about whether playing both roles poses a conflict. California Watch, a project of the independent, nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting, compared two sets of data at the center of the debate — one a database of payments by drug companies to doctors nationwide and the other a list of the top antipsychotic prescribers in California’s Medi-Cal program for the poor and disabled.
Since direct-to-consumer drug advertising was legalized 13 years ago, Americans have become a nation of pill poppers — choosing the type of drug they desire like a new toothpaste, sometimes whether or not they need it. But if patients want the drugs, doctors and pharma executives want them to have the drugs and media gets full page ads and huge TV flights (when many advertisers have dried up), is the national pillathon really a problem? Yes, when you consider the cost of private and government insurance and the health of patients who take potentially dangerous drugs like these.
Seroquel, Zyprexa, Geodon, atypical antipsychotics—Even though the antipsychotic Seroquel surpasses 71 drugs on the FDA’s January quarterly report with 1766 adverse events, even though it’s linked to eight corruption scandals, even though military parents blame Seroquel for unexplained troop deaths, it is the fifth biggest-selling drug in the world and netted AstraZeneca almost $5 billion last year. Atypicals were originally promoted to replace side-effect prone drugs like Thorazine but soon became pharmaceutical Swiss Army Knives for depression, anxiety, insomnia, bipolar and conduct disorders and other off label uses — and betrayed the same side effects as older antipsychotics. (Especially tardive dyskinesia-linked Abilify.)
The Justice Department has collected a whopping $3 billion in settlements this year with help from whistleblowers and a powerful law known as the False Claims Act, Assistant Attorney General Tony West announced this morning. And guess where $2.5 billion of that $3 billion came from? Big Pharma. This year’s biggest hauls under the False Claims Act include $669 million of the record-shattering $2.3 billion total the government took from Pfizer over its improper promotion of the painkiller Bextra, $302 million from Astra Zeneca over the anti-psychotic drug Seroquel, and $192 million from Novartis.
U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, requested data from each state this year listing which doctors write the most prescriptions for eight common drugs covered by Medicaid, the federal health program for the poor. The reports were intended to “ensure that taxpayer dollars are appropriately spent,” Grassley wrote in a letter to state officials. The report detailed the top prescribers of the following drugs:Abilify, Geodon, Oxycontin, Risperdal, Roxicodone, Seroquel, Xanax, Zyprexa. Among the doctors getting the most reimbursements were a Columbia psychiatrist who wrote about 3,900 prescriptions for the drugs in question in 2008 and 2009. The doctor billed about $1.3 million to Medicaid, according to a Post and Courier review of the data.
The Big News in Pharma-land is that the DOJ is going after a former GSK lawyer/Exec for a myriad of crimes which could lead to a Fashionable Federal Prison Jump Suit & a very long stay at a Martha Steward Foo Foo Club Fed. The question still remains if this scum bag exec does go to trial and is convicted (or sings like a Canary); what effect this might have on the World Wide Pharmaceutical Drug Cartel Criminal business as usual model?