This Monday, the Justice Department announced development in what is known as the largest healthcare fraud in U.S. history. GlaxoSmithKline pays $3 billion in a settlement that rules the company guilty for unlawful promotion of several prescription drugs.
Fighting the titans of the healthcare industry is often a road without an end. Consumers’ pledges are dwarfed by the multi-billion companies, their lawyers and powerful influence. But the Justice Department managed to get one titan to plead guilty to three charges of criminal information involving antidepressants Paxil and Wellbutrin as well as diabetes drug Avandia.
“Today’s multi-billion dollar settlement is unprecedented in both size and scope” said Deputy attorney general James M.Cole. “It underscores the Administration’s firm commitment to protecting the American people and holding accountable those who commit health care fraud” he added.
Meanwhile, GlaxoSmithKline’s present day CEO, Sir Andrew Wittey said the investigation and the settlement is the end of “difficult, long-standing matters” for the company. “Whilst these originate in a different era for the company, they cannot and will not be ignored” said Andrew Wittey. “On behalf of GSK, I want to express our regret and reiterate that we have learnt from the mistakes that were made” the CEO’s statement reads.
GlaxoSmithKline has agreed to plead guilty on three criminal charges. Two legal claims against the company pertained to misbranding Paxil and Wellbutrin antidepressants to interstate commerce. The company promoted Paxil as a depression drug even for patients under 18 although it had no FDA approval for that particular category of patients.
The Justice Department showed the company made use of a medical journal article that was misleading consumers. The article at fault praised Paxil’s efficacy while the company promoted its use through spa programs and sponsored dinners. At the same time, GlaxoSmithKline was found to have paid doctors to approve Wellbutrin usage in depression treatments.
The investigation in GlaxoSmithKline’s practices in the U.S. market was a joint effort by the FDA, FBI and the Department of Health and Human Services. It was that combined effort that found GSK faulty on safety data reports for a period of six years for the diabetes drug Avandia. The company did not inform consumers about Avandia increasing potential heart failure and heart attack risk.