JUNK SCIENCE? Number 22: Glaxo in largest ever US drug fraud settlement

Largest Pharmaceutical Misconduct Settlement in US History as GSK Fined Over $ 3 Billion
Pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline will pay $3 billion and plead guilty to federal charges to resolve a slew of criminal and civil issues stemming from its use of kickbacks, misbranding and other misconduct to market drugs such as Paxil, Wellbutrin and Advair, the U.S. government announced.

The agreement is the largest health care fraud settlement in US history according to the Justice Department. It’s also the largest payment ever by a drug company. The settlement is “unprecedented in both size and scope,” said James M. Cole, deputy attorney general, in a statement.

“Today brings to resolution difficult, long-standing matters for GSK,” said Chief Executive Sir Andrew Witty in a statement. “Whilst these originate in a different era for the company, they cannot and will not be ignored. On behalf of GSK, I want to express our regret and reiterate that we have learnt from the mistakes that were made.”

GSK apparently promoted drugs for previously unapproved uses, including advertising Paxil for children, no matter that the antidepressant had not be approved for anyone under the age of 18.

Matt Kozar on ABC News said that GSK was “marketing the medicines for off-label uses in order to boost profits” for the company. The company also failed to report some safety problems with the diabetes drug, Avandia, including the fact it “sharply increased the risk of heart attacks and congestive heart failure” in some patients. Since 2007, the FDA has added warnings to Avandia label to alert doctors to these risks. GSK even sponsored dinners and spa programs in the drug’s name, prosecutors said.

Glaxo also used sham advisory boards and speakers at lavish resorts to promote depression drug Wellbutrin as an option for weight loss and a remedy for sexual dysfunction and substance addiction, according to the government. Customers were urged to use higher-than-approved dosages, the government added.

The health care giant was also accused by prosecutors of advertising off-label uses for asthma drug Advair, seizure medication Lamictal and nausea treatment Zofran while also making false claims about the safety and usefulness of such drugs.

The government also accused Glaxo of offering kickbacks to medical professionals, dangling cash, trips to Florida, and tickets to basketball games as incentives to promote and prescribe its drugs.

Glaxo also submitted incorrect prices for its products to the government, allowing it to underpay rebates owed to programs such as Medicaid, prosecutors said.

The company will plead guilty to three federal criminal charges, two of them for introducing misbranded Paxil and Wellbutrin drugs and one for not reporting safety data about the cardiovascular effects of diabetes drug Avandia to the Food and Drug Administration.

Two whistleblowers (Thomas Gerahty, a former senior marketing development manager and Matthew Burke, a former regional Vice President) provided the government with overwhelming evidence that was at the heart of the government’s case against GlaxoSmithKline.

Gerahty, Burke and Phillips & Cohen, who represented them, worked closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston and the Justice Department after filing their “qui tam” (whistleblower) case in early 2003 in Boston’s federal district court.

Gerahty and Burke gave the government new and detailed information about Glaxo’s nationwide improper marketing practices, including the use of financial inducements to doctors to prescribe Glaxo’s

Damages and civil penalties will account for $2 billion, while $1 billion is a criminal fine.


Sources: Washington Post, Natural News, Bloomberg and others

For an update on the blatant bribery and other dodgy actions of Glaxo in an exclusive interview with one of the ‘whistleblowers’ visit


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