Jeremy Thurman on July 5, 2012
As Oklahoma Paxil attorneys, but moreover, as personal injury lawyers, we’re always pleased to bring good news to our clients. This week brought very good news as the pharmaceutical company that produces Paxil, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), pleaded guilty to charges of drug fraud, and agreed to a $3 billion settlement.
The company was charged with misbranding antidepressants Paxil and Wellbutrin. In addition, the Justice Department charged the pharmaceutical company with unlawfully promoting Paxil to treat depression in children under the age of 18. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved Paxil for pediatric patients.
The promotions were not limited to simple advertisements, either. According to the Justice Department, GSK sponsored dinners and spa programs to promote the drug for adolescent use. The company also apparently paid doctors millions of dollars to promote Wellbutrin for off-label use. They also hosted meetings with doctors at luxury resorts.
GSK was also charged with failing to report safety data about Avandia, a drug used to treat diabetes.
The in-depth investigation involved not just the Justice Department, but the FBI, FDA, and Department of Health and Human Services.
While the punitive damages for the criminal charges, which also include pricing fraud, come to $1 billion, another $2 billion is being set aside for civil liabilities related to the three drugs, and a handful of other drugs.
James M. Cole, deputy attorney general, said the settlement is unprecedented in both size and scope, and shows a deep commitment on the part of the FDA to protect the public, and hold perpetrators of healthcare fraud accountable for their actions.
The CEO of GSK, Sir Andrew Wittey, expressed regret on behalf of the company, while taking care to point out that the transgressions had occurred during a “different era.” He said the company has learned from its mistakes.
It is our hope that other pharmaceutical and healthcare companies will also take a lesson from these events, and take steps to prevent healthcare fraud in the future so fewer patients will be harmed by this kind of negligence.