Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Here's to Your Health! Now, Who's Going to Jail?

So, it's being reported (here, here, and here are some examples) that Pharma-Giant GlaxoSmithKline has just pleaded guilty to criminal charges that it fraudulently marketed some of its big sellers, anti-depressants Paxil and Wellbutrin--in spite of grave risks that the drugs caused a greatly increased likelihood of suicide, and that it withheld required data showing that its diabetes drug, Avandia, caused potentially fatal heart problems.

What's now been admitted by GSK is that, despite knowing about, and covering up data that showed Paxil caused a risk of suicide 8 times greater than placebo, especially in young people, GSK marketed Paxil for off-label use--that is, use that's not approved by the FDA--in young people!

The also admit that they marketed anti-depressant Wellbutrin as a treatment for obesity, anxiety, addiction, and ADHD, although it was not approved for those uses, and posed risks that, because it was "off-label" use, weren't fully disclosed to patients.

And, just to make sure that their deadly snake oil could get maximum distribution, GSK gave perqs to doctors, like fancy-pants spa visits, hunting trips, and vacations to Jamaica to induce them to prescribe the drug, and helped to publish a journal article that misrepresented data about the drug's effectiveness.

In the case of Avandia, whose use was severely restricted in 2010 after it was linked to heart risks, the company admitted that it had failed to report data from studies that indicated Avandia could cause possibly fatal heart problems. It also admitted to making false or exaggerated claims of its safety and effectiveness, ironically touting it as good for your cardiovascular health (all except for those possible fatal heart problems, that is).

For all of this, GSK has agreed to pay about $3 BILLION in criminal and civil fines--the largest penalty in big-Pharma history. They'll probably also get the socks sued off them by families of teens who tried or succeeded in committing suicide because of their unapproved use of Paxil. Please, please, can I PLEASE be on the jury?

Who could have known that drug companies don't really care if people die, just so long as they buy their pills first? Oh gee, I don't know---maybe all of us, if we'd actually thought about it. You know, how pharma companies (whose ONLY legal purpose and obligation in life is to make the most money possible for their shareholders) might have a disincentive to actually cure a health problem, when it could make money like clockwork every month by keeping you sick, but selling you pills to "manage" your condition. I think I might have mentioned that once or twice in the past.

Notably missing from all the reports of GSK's now-admitted wrongdoing: Which marketing genius, CEO, or other muckety-muck is going to do time because of it? Oh yeah, I forgot. If you kill someone while robbing a convenience store of $38.40, you do life. If you kill people while making obscene profits for your corporate overlords, you get promoted.

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