Move Over, Defense Industry, Drug Companies Are The New Fraudsters, Study Finds


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In a recent cover story (Pharm League, Dec. 2, 2010) the Scene examined the relationship between a handful of Nashville doctors and the drug companies that pay them big bucks to speak on their behalf. The story sparked heated debate in the comments section online, despite a wide consensus in the ethics community and a number of studies over the years that bear out just how much influence the industry wields over doctors on their payroll.

In case there were any doubts about Big Pharma's bad intentions, the Public Citizen's Health Research Group released a study that should resound in the medical community: Drug companies have surpassed the defense industry as the biggest defrauder of the federal government. Let that marinate for a moment. Ok? Let's continue.

Among their findings: Of the nearly $20 billion in penalties paid out by drug companies over the past 20 years, nearly 75 percent of the settlements were paid out in the last five years.

Most of the infractions were for promoting off-label (non-FDA approved) uses for drugs. Recruiting doctors to push off-label uses has been a successful strategy in raising sales and market-share. It's also illegal as hell. The rest of the infractions were for overcharging the government — Big Pharma's biggest customer.

More than half of the settlements were paid out by four companies: GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Eli Lilly, and Schering-Plough.


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