Monday, September 28, 2009

By Stuart Chaifetz

The Dark Side of Big Pharma IV
Fraud is a pretty powerful word. When something is painted as being a fraud, we immediately begin to dismiss it as being illegitimate, corrupt and deceitful.
It’s also a dangerous word to use, because the person wielding it can be dismissed if there is no evidence to back up their claim. It’s not something that I throw out casually and I am not at all comfortable simply accusing someone, or in this case members of the Pharmaceutical industry, of fraud.

But I have no problem quoting it!
“The Justice Department charged the drug maker Forest Laboratories on Wednesday with defrauding the government of millions of dollars by illegally marketing the popular antidepressants Celexa and Lexapro for unapproved uses in children and teenagers.”
I am going to get back to that article at the end of this blog, but for now, sit back and watch a cavalcade of fraud from some of the biggest names in the Pharmaceutical industry:

“The state claims GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis engaged in fraud from 1991 to 2005, depriving the cash-strapped Medicaid program of badly needed resources.”
Most of these fraud stories dealt with pricing. But there are other, far more serious types of fraud going on in the industry, where data from Human Clinical Trials are either hidden or falsified:

“A PROMINENT case of scientific fraud is being seized on by critics of the pharmaceutical industry to highlight their calls for a crackdown on the use of scientific studies for marketing purposes.

“Starting in 1996, Scott Reuben of the Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts, published a series of trials testing whether painkillers, including Pfizer's Celebrex and Merck's Vioxx, relieve post-operative pain. Now 21 of Reuben's papers have been shown to contain fabricated data, after he was investigated by Baystate officials. Many have already been retracted.”

“The Food and Drug Administration disqualifies researchers that the agency finds were involved in misconduct, including falsifying results, during studies.”

“In a novel claim testing the way that the $400 billion worldwide pharmaceutical industry is regulated, the New York State attorney general, Eliot Spitzer, sued the British-based drug giant GlaxoSmithKline yesterday, accusing the company of fraud in concealing negative information about its popular antidepressant medicine Paxil.”
*Please note that that article came out when Eliot Spitzer was the respected Attorney General of New York, and not the creepy ex-governor that we know him to be today.

“The Securities and Exchange Commission Monday sued ICN Pharmaceuticals and its Viratek Inc. subsidiary for securities fraud, contending that they knowingly misled the public about a Viratek drug's effectiveness in fighting the AIDS virus.”
“In a separate clinical trial of individuals with AIDS-related complex (ARC), the SEC said, the company knowingly withheld preliminary results showing that a disproportionate share of those individuals on ribavirin had died.”

I want to end this by going back to first article I quoted, which dealt with the drug Lexapro. At first glance it appears to be monetary fraud at hand, but look at what really was going on:
“In a civil complaint filed by the United States attorney’s office in Boston, federal prosecutors alleged that former top executives at Forest concealed for several years a clinical study that showed that the drugs were not effective in children and might even pose risks to them, including causing some to become suicidal.
“From 2001 to 2004, Forest heavily promoted results from another clinical trial it had financed that showed that the drugs were effective, without disclosing the negative study...”
Hiding data on a drug that might cause children to commit suicide?
If proven, then this is a fraud perpetrated against humanity itself.

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