The pharmaceutical industry hides behind marketing and messages to appear to be the heroes in the healthcare marketplace. Yet, the list of lawsuits, violations and fines is indeed long.
In fact, there were 373 settlements reached between the federal and state governments and pharmaceutical manufacturers, for a total of $35.7 billion between 1991 and 2015. Of these, 140 were federal settlements, for $31.9 billion, and 233 were state settlements, for $3.8 billion. (Source: Public Citizen, Twenty-Five Years of Pharmaceutical Industry Criminal and Civil Penalties: 1991 through 2015)
Below is a selective list of recent settlements in which the penalties exceeded $1 billion (it would be much longer if we included the multi-million dollar settlements):
- Johnson & Johnson was fined $2.2 billion for marketing schizophrenia drugs for unapproved treatment to the elderly and children in November 2013. In announcing the settlement, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder stated, “This alleged conduct is shameful and it is unacceptable…It displayed a reckless indifference to the safety of the American people. And it constituted a clear abuse of the public trust, showing a blatant disregard for systems and laws designed to protect public health.”
- Abbott was fined $1.5 billion in 2012 for illegal promotion of an antipsychotic drug upon admission to having trained a special sales force to target nursing homes to market the drug for the control of aggression and agitation in elderly dementia patients for which it had never been approved. The company also admitted to marketing the drug to treat schizophrenia, even though no study had found it effective for that purpose.
- GlaxoSmithKline was fined $3 billion in 2012 for misbranding a drug for treating depression in patients under 18, even though the drug had never been approved for that age group. The company also pled guilty to failing to disclose safety information about a diabetes drug to the FDA.
- Amgen was fined $762 million in 2012 for introducing and promoting drugs including an anemia drug to be used at doses that the FDA had explicitly rejected, and for an off-label treatment that had never been FDA-approved.
- Sanofi-Aventis paid $109 million in 2012 because the company gave doctors free units of a knee injection drug to encourage those doctors to buy their product. Sanofi lowered the price by promising these free samples to doctors while getting inflated prices from Medicare and other government health care programs.
- Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc paid $5 million in 2012 for promoting a stroke-prevention drug, two drugs for the treatment of lung disease, and a high blood pressure treatment, for non- medically accepted uses that caused false claims to be submitted to government health care programs.
- Mylan, perpetrator of the shocking price increases for its EpiPen, reached a $465 million settlement in October 2016 with the Justice Department and other US government agencies over questions on whether the company had overcharged Medicaid for the treatment by improperly classifying it as a generic drug (generic drugs provide a discount to the government of about half that paid by brand name drugs; Medicaid spending on the EpiPen totaled nearly $1.3 billion from 2011 to 2015).
Big Pharma atrocities such as these examples are not rare. Yet, the industry claims to be focused on patients. It does not add up.
Americans have a right to access safe and affordable prescription medications. We will continue to fight for these Americans.