GlaxoSmithKline agreed to plead guilty to misdemeanor criminal charges and pay $3 billion to settle what government officials on Monday described as the largest case of healthcare fraud in U.S. history…
GSK targeted the antidepressant Paxil to patients under age 18 when it was approved for adults only, and it pushed the drug Wellbutrin for uses it was not approved for, including weight loss and treatment of sexual dysfunction, according to an investigation led by the U.S. Justice Department.
The company went to extreme lengths to promote the drugs, such as distributing a misleading medical journal article and providing doctors with meals and spa treatments that amounted to illegal kickbacks, prosecutors said.
In a third instance, GSK failed to give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration safety data about its diabetes drug Avandia, in violation of U.S. law, prosecutors said.
The agreement to settle the charges “is unprecedented in both size and scope,” said James Cole, the No. 2 official at the U.S. Justice Department. He called the action “historic” and “a clear warning to any company that chooses to break the law…”
This follows the pattern established by Eric Holder and the Obama administration of cracking down on how pharmaceuticals are sold. While the most widely reported part of Medicare fraud has been the arrest and conviction of rings of healthcare providers collecting on phony charges – another significant part of how taxpayers have been screwed is by artificially inflated charges, the “cost” of drugs provided through government programs.
GSK says they are now reformed. Trust but verify is still part of oversight – at least in this administration.