GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), a highly influential pharmaceutical company, paid $3 billion in a massive drug fraud settlement. The settlement came out of a multi-agency government investigation.
Federal prosecutors hit the company with criminal charges for promoting the anti-depressant Paxil off-label, and for failing to share safety information regarding the diabetes drug Avandia. The company was also hit with civil charges for faulty price reporting.
GlaxoSmithKline's charges extend to six other mismarketed drugs as well, for which the company received civil penalties. The case came from four former employees, who blew the whistle under the False Claims Act and informed the federal government of the unlawful practices.
GSK Whistle Blowers
Four former GSK employees reported that the company had engaged in illegal drug promotion. The previous employees alerted the government about GSK's unlawful practices, which took place from the late 1990s to the mid-2000s.
One whistleblower had been a senior marketing development manager, and another was a regional vice president, according to a New York Times article. The whistleblowers informed the government about a slew of bribes used to encourage doctors to promote the company's products, in addition to faulty reporting of safety data.
Physician Bribery and Off-Label Promotion
GSK was charged with illegally advertising the antidepressant Paxil for use in children and adolescents, despite serious dangers of birth defects, autism and a higher risk of suicide.
GSK was also charged with providing lavish vacations and other excursions to doctors in order to raise their product prescription rates. The company also marketed Wellbutrin for unapproved uses like weight loss and sexual dysfunction, and hid data that showed Avandia was linked to heart problems.
False Claims Act
GlaxoSmithKline is one of many pharmaceutical companies charged by and required to pay out to the federal government, largely due to the enactment of the False Claims Act. Johnson & Johnson and Abbott Laboratories are two such companies also affected by the act.
The law takes on the company as a whole, attempting to set a precedent that deters pharmaceutical manufacturers from unlawful drug marketing.
Multi-Billion Drug Fraud Settlement
The government and GSK agreed to a $3 billion settlement, which includes:
- $1 billion in criminal charges for Paxil, Wellbutrin, and Avandia
- $2 billion in civil charges for Advair and other drugs
While the government received payments for GSK's wrongdoing, the health of many individuals was compromised by the pharmaceutical giant's actions. If you were injured as a result, legal advocates may be able to assist.