Patient Safety Is Apparently Not Top Priority for GlaxoSmithKline

As a Westwood and Boston Massachusetts injury lawyer, I see an ongoing business practice occur time and time again, and it annoys, frustrates and angers me. What is that? It’s big pharmaceutical companies – which now market themselves directly to the consumer in ads on TV and in print – putting patient safety on the bottom of their list. In other words, they look for profits, profits and more profits, more than anything else, when patient safety should be Priority One. But patient safety is rarely Big Pharma’s Number One Priority. Profit – enormous profit – is. I’ve blogged about pharmaceutical marketing practices before, and I haven’t spared my thoughts.

This past week GlaxoSmithKline agreed to plead guilty to misdemeanor criminal charges brought by the U.S. Government. The pharmaceutical giant will wind up paying $3 Billion to settle what may be described as the largest case of healthcare fraud in U.S. history. Let me say that again – this may be the LARGEST case of healthcare fraud in U.S. history. This settlement includes $1 billion in criminal fines and $2 billion in civil fines. Generally, the money goes to the U.S. Treasury, and some state treasuries, and would be spent accordingly. The state of Massachusetts Medicaid program is slated to receive approximately $35 million in the settlement.

Allegedly, in committing this fraud, the British drugmaker broke all kinds of United States laws in the marketing and development of its pharmaceuticals. First among those violations, the company targeted its antidepressant Paxil to patients who were under age 18 – when in fact, the drug was approved for adults only.

Second, the drugmaker pushed its antidepressant drug Wellbutrin for uses that it was not approved for, including treatment of sexual dysfunction and weight loss.

Third, GSK failed to give the United States Food and Drug Administration safety data about its diabetes drug, Avandia.

This alleged misconduct took place for many years, beginning in the late 1990s, and in the case of Avandia, continued until, and including, the year 2007.

This case is part of a huge trend of U.S. authorities cracking down on how pharmaceuticals are sold.

Allegedly, GSK went to great lengths to promote their drugs – including distributing a misleading medical journal article, and providing doctors (who they wanted to prescribe their drugs) with meals and spa treatments – which amounted to illegal kickbacks.

I’m thoroughly disgusted with Big Pharma and how their bottom line is profits instead of patient safety. And if you go to GlaxoSmithKilne’s website, you’ll see their ridiculous corporate tagline: “Do More, Feel Better, and Live Longer.” It seems those words apply primarily to the company and its shareholders, who aim to make as much money as possible, so they can in fact do more, feel much better, and live a lot longer.

Interestingly, almost a year ago GSK agreed to pay almost $41 Million to 37 states and the District of Columbia in an unrelated case about its substandard manufacturing processes at a Puerto Rican factory.

File this blog post under “Disgusting,” and “Some Things Never Change.” I’m outraged — aren’t you?