March 25, 2004 - the US Attorney in Pennsylvania announced an investigation of ELI Lilly's marketing promotion of Xyprexa (olazapine), Prozac (fluoxetine) and Evista (raloxifene).
April 19, 2004, a class action lawsuit was filed in federal court against Eli Lilly, accusing the company of heavily promoting Xyprexa as a safe and effective drug for psychotic disorders, while virtually concealing the risks of side effects from doctors and from the patients. Zyprexa has been linked to severe side effects including diabetes, hyperglycemia and pancratitis. In 2002, both the Japanese Halth and Welfare Ministry and the UK Medicines Control Agency issued emergency warnings concerning Xyprexa and diabetes-related complications.
May 13, 2004, Pfizer pled guilty to criminal charges and civil liabilities in connection with illegal and fraudulent promotion of unapproved uses of Neurontin and agreed to pay $430 million in penalties.
May 18, 2004, New York City filed suit against GlaxoSmithKline, charging the company with "anticompetitive, frudulent, and inequitable confuct," when it acquired patents for its anti-depressant Paxil, and for obtaining "frivolous" patents to unfairly keep cheaper, generic versions of the drug off the market.
May 26, 2004, Italy's finance police ended a two year investigation of GlaxoSMithKline leading to criminal charges against the company and of 4,440 doctors, including more than 2,500 GPs and 1,700 specialists. It is reported that GSK spent $278 million in bribes whose purpose was to influence the doctors' prescribing. The practice, according to British analysts, is common in the pharmaceutical industry. The doctors have been criminally indicted and could face jail sentences. According to the suit "Glaxo employees in Italy in question had offered cash, gifts and prizes to doctors and other healthcare professionals to encourage them to prescribe Glaxo drugs."
On June 2, NYS Attorney General filed a lawsuit against GlaxoSmithKline charging the company with fraudulent marketing of its antidepressant, Paxil/paroxetine and concealment of the drug's hazardous adverse effects from physicians.
Fraudulent pharmaceutical marketing practices affect more than economics, they undermine health and cause preventable deaths. Multi-national pharmaceutical companies that engage in fraudulent marketing cause more harm than illicit drug traffickers. Inasmuch as pharmaceutical companies who engage in fraud have demonstrated that they are not deterred even when fined hundreds of millions of dollars, violators should be jailed, not merely fined. Fraudulent drug marketing practices should, therefore, be
criminalized. Pharmaceutical company employees who violate marketing standards should be prosecuted and held liable under the same drug enforcement rules that are applied to those who traffic in illicit drugs.
Contact: Vera Hassner Sharav
At long last, the real drug companies are being looked at for criminal behavior. Remember in the movie "The Fugitive" when the bad guys turned out to be a drug company and his old friend? I think that movie is a lot more representative of what actually goes on in the "testing" of drugs for market than Glaxo or Lilly would like us to believe.
The FDA itself is the next culprit on my list. Now there's an organization ripe for investigation!
How is it that so many ex-FDA employees and directors wind up on the boards of the drug companies? The graft is so deep I can smell it from here...