Paying illegal kickbacks to doctors: just the cost of doing business for Big Pharma?

The drug company Novartis has agreed to pay $422.5 million in criminal and civil penalties for promoting illegal use of its epilepsy drug Trileptaland five other Novartis drugs, the U.S. Department of Justice announced recently. The cases charged the company with promoting off-label use of Trileptal for medical conditions it had not been tested or approved to treat, and also for its illegal targeted marketing efforts.

The marketing efforts that prosecutors took exception to included paying kickbacks to physicians to encourage them to prescribe more of these drugs.

Now, that word kickbacks is a loaded word, and one that I’d imagine the docs who have been accepting this drug money would not likely ever use themselves.   Continue reading

What drug company sales reps wrote on their BlackBerries

 blackberry office

  • A psychiatrist, originally skeptical about prescribing the powerful anti-psychotic drug Seroquel to his patients, becomes a super-prescriber who is rewarded by the drug’s manufacturer with generous $1,500 speaking engagements.
  • a neurologist jokes that she doles out so much Seroquel for her migraine patients that the drug company probably thinks she’s a psychiatrist;  she is rewarded with free trips to Scotland and Spain by the company.
  • a  busy physician has no problem leaving patients to stew in the waiting room while he listens to a pitch about Seroquel from a drug rep. “Dr had 3 patients waiting but did sit down with me x 25 minutes,” the rep wrote in her daily call notes.  Continue reading

How to translate Big Pharma’s PR-Speak into English

Purple money pills i stock 500  2That bad smell is the stench of yet another pharmaceutical company getting caught red-handed with their fingers in your wallet. If the folks at Pfizer Inc. had mugged you in the street and threatened your life, they’d all be in jail. But because they can afford a legal team that O.J. Simpson would have envied, they get off with a settlement of $2.3 billion.

That penalty seems small, however, compared to the $44.2 billion in pharmaceutical sales that the world’s largest drugmaker rang up last year.

Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman of Georgetown University acknowledges that, while $2.3 billion is a lot of money,

“…but these are highly profitable drugs. It will not take them very long to make up that deficit. Drug companies will continue this unless the financial downside makes it unprofitable.”

Pfizer has agreed to pay this penalty to settle charges that it illegally marketed the pain drug Bextra and three other medicines for so-called ‘off label’ uses that were not approved by the Food & Drug Administration. It’s the largest health care fraud settlement in the U.S. Justice Department’s history. Continue reading