Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Health Care in America - Big Pharma Fraud, Cover Ups & Corruption

The Hals Report

Fraud, Cover-Ups, and Corruption: Welcome to the Drug Industry

Erik Hals,  January 6, 2011
The Broken American Health Care System

There are no short cuts to the truth, and especially when it comes to the cutthroat world of big pharma and big bucks.  In this article we take a story that appeared in The Hals Report by Erik Hals.  It is another example of the extent big pharma is willing to go to secure business in the ruthless legal drug addiction market in America.


The United States health care industry is one of the largest in the world, with over 300 billion dollars spent on prescription drugs per year. (1) For many, these drugs have brought undeniable benefits, but in recent months the health care industry has fallen upon scandal after scandal.

Recently, two of the worlds largest pharmaceutical companies were fined billions of dollars after investigations into their secret working practices brought several fraudulent activities to light. Now, new revelations have emerged including pervasive fraud, corruption and huge kickbacks which were paid to doctors.

So, what do doctors receive kickbacks for and how do they work? We will begin with a man named David. A decade ago David was prescribed Risperdal for a psychiatric illness, a drug made by Johnson and Johnson. U.S. authorities never approved Risperdal for treating his disorder but the doctor prescribed it to him anyway, it had devastating consequences. He is now in a wheelchair with diabetes and Parkinson’s. In a current lawsuit against Johnson and Johnson, he blames Risperdal. (2)

The pharmaceutical companies didn’t trick the government though. U.S. regulators ruled Johnson and Johnson misled doctors about potential fatal risks associated with the drug, including diabetes. (3) There are more than 2,000 people bringing legal actions against Johnson and Johnson. The company claims the actions are without merit. (of course they do!) The U.S. government and several states are also suing the company in related cases.

Surprisingly, most of the leading pharmaceutical companies in the United States have been fined for fraud in the past. One of the most common types of fraud in the pharmaceutical world is known as off-label marketing. Off-label marketing is a technique in which pharmaceutical companies advise doctors to prescribe drugs for unapproved uses. This is known as fraud against the government because medicare ends up paying the expense for the drugs if they do not work.

Sharon Ornsby, a member of the FBI financial crimes unit, in an interview on Al Jazeera television said, “pharmaceutical fraud is one of our top three threats.”

The U.S. government is slowly beginning to show a fighting facade, but is that all it really is, a facade? In the last 2 years alone the U.S. government has fined six of Americas top ten pharmaceutical companies for fraud. Ongoing investigations continue against three of the four remaining companies. During this specific period in time the industry has paid out over five billion dollars in fines.

In September of 2009 Pfizer settled civil and criminal charges in the amount of 2.3 billion dollars with the federal government for illegally marketing four types of drugs. (4) The Pfizer corporation made over 180 billion dollars selling twelve twelve kinds of drugs and only paid 2.3 billion dollars in fines, talk about a phenomenal business plan!

Details of Pfizer’s behavior came to light when several insiders decided to become whistleblowers. Glen Demott was a top Pfizer representative selling the drug Bextra while earning 100,000 dollars per year. He claims he was trained to lie to physicians, “they were training us to say things to physicians that weren’t accurate. Bextra was not approved to be used for acute pain and we were out there trying to get standing orders for acute pain.” Eventually, Demott was forced out of his position with Pfizer. (5)

Demott is one of a growing number of whistleblowers exposing medical corruption across America. This is largely thanks to a U.S. law called Qui Tam. The law allows individuals with knowledge concerning fraud against the government to bring a legal case on its behalf and share in the proceeds.

Lewis Morris is chief lawyer for the U.S. health department and increasingly uses Qui Tam to expose drug industry corruption. Today there are over 1000 outstanding Qui Tam cases in the United States and they are slowly beginning to open up the secretive world of big pharma. For the first time, we can see millions of dollars in payments to doctors throughout the U.S.

Drug companies now publish physician payment figures online and in 2009 just a few companies paid doctors in the United States over 200 million dollars. (6) These giant sums of money pouring into the medical field will inevitably lead to corruption on every level of the pharmaceutical industry. (if it hasn’t already?)

We already know Risperdal can cause diabetes and Parkinson’s as we saw in Davids case, but now there is evidence the drug can cause serious complications in adolescent boys as well. (Gynecomastia: breast development.) (7) As we speak, federal investigators are still looking into claims concerning Johnson and Johnson. They believe the company illegally marketed Risperdal for use in children, including those with ADHD. But with so many drug scandals flooding the news, the countries regulators have begun to run low on resources.

Avandia used to be the worlds best selling diabetes drug for years. It earned its maker Glaxo Smith Kline billions of dollars, but now it is linked to over 100,000 heart attacks in the United States.

In July the U.S. food and drug administration held hearings related to the dangers of Avandia. (It’s license has already been suspended in Saudi Arabia) An investigation by the U.S. senate finance committee found the totality of evidence suggests Glaxo Smith Kline was aware of the possible cardiac risks associated with Avandia years before the evidence became public. (8) Glaxo Smith Kline also tried to prevent heart attack warnings from being printed on their products box.

Many of Americas leading pharmaceutical corporations appear distraught and amass in corruption. Will fines alone prevent this?

The U.S. government is continually reaching for stronger powers and controls over the industry. The department of health is even considering breaking up drug companies found guilty of corrupt and unethical practices. In the meantime, 1000′s of doctors continue to take cash payments from the drug industry and would argue they are doing nothing wrong. This deeply entrenched culture of corruption within the drug industry is a serious problem that will inevitably cripple our healthcare system beyond repair if something isn’t done about it . Say NO to big pharma.

Reuters: prescription drug sales 300b$
2. Health Freedom Alliance
3. J&J Told to Pay $257.7 Million Over Risperdal Marketing Tactics
4. Pfizer pays a record $2.3 billion to settle criminal charges
5. Whistleblower Glen DeMott on False Claims Act Settlement Reached
6. PFIZER INC Officers & Directors
8. Avandia Maker Hid Risks for Years, Probe Finds

© The Hals Report 2012. All rights reserved.


No comments: