(NaturalNews) Pharmaceutical companies in the United States and abroad are finally being punished by governments for bad business practices -- including tax avoidance and accounting fraud -- according to blogger Robert Weissman, writing for The Huffington Post.
Weissman points out recent cases against Bristol Myers Squibb and British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline. BMS CEO Peter R. Dolan was fired last week over the company's dispute with a generic drug maker over the patent on the company's blockbuster drug Plavix, after violating the terms of an agreement with federal prosecutors to not engage in corporate wrongdoing for two years. GSK also recently agreed to pay the U.S. Internal Revenue Service $3 billion to settle tax avoidance charges.
Weissman cites a brief timeline of Big Pharma's recent legal troubles, authored by Dr. Peter Rost, a former Pfizer executive who recently published "The Whistleblower: Confessions of a Healthcare Hitman."
1997: after pulling Pondimin and Redux off the market because of heart valve damage, Wyeth was forced to set aside $21.1 billion to settle "fen-phen" liability cases.
2000: Wyeth signed an FDA Consent Decree and paid $30 million for failing to comply with Good Manufacturing Practice.
2001: "TAP-Astra Zeneca Pay Over a Billion Dollar in Fines" -- re: criminal marketing of Lupron.
2002: Pfizer paid $49 million to settle state and federal Medicaid fraud charges involving Lipitor.
2002: Schering-Plough signed a FDA consent decree and paid a $500 million fine -- the biggest in FDA history -- for violating manufacturing standards.
2003: GlaxoSmithKline shareholders questioned GSK CEO, Jean-Pierre Garnier, about his pay package to which he responded: "I am not Mother Teresa." GlaxoSmithKline also ran afoul of the IRS -- it is facing a demand for $7.8 billion in backdated taxes and interest.
2003: GSK signed a corporate integrity agreement and paid $88 million in a civil fine for overcharging Medicaid for the antidepressant, Paxil and nasal-allergy spray, Flonase.
2003: Bayer pled guilty to violating the federal Prescription Drug Marketing Act, paying $257 million including a criminal fine for its marketing of Cipro.
2004: Schering-Plough paid $345 million to resolve criminal and civil liabilities for illegal marketing of Calritin.
2004: Pfizer admitted criminal marketing of Neurontin, agreeing to pay $420 million.
2004: Merck withdrew its lethal painkiller, Vioxx. Estimates are that it would cost the company $50 billion.
2004: The IRS served Merck with a "preliminary notice of deficiency" that could lead to $2.04 billion payment for back taxes.
2004: New York State Attorney General slapped GSK with fraudulent marketing of Paxil -- the company settled and posted its previously concealed pediatric clinical trial data.
2004: Bristol-Myers Squibb was ordered by the Securities and Exchange Commission to pay $150 million to settle charges of inflating its revenue by $1.5 billion in 2000 and 2001. A separate criminal investigation by the U.S. Attorney General's Office in NJ resulted in the indictment of two executives for securities fraud -- the company agreed to pay $300 million to shareholders.
2005: the Justice Department announced that GSK had paid "over $150 million to resolve allegations of violations to the False Claims Act through fraudulent drug pricing and marketing."
2005: Serono Laboratories (Switzerland) agreed to pay $704 million to resolve criminal and civil charges in connection with the marketing of Serostim, an AIDS drug. The company also pled guilty to marketing conspiracy.
2005: Eli Lilly pled guilty and paid $36 million for its illegal marketing of Evista for off-label uses.
Weissman calls for an end to the pharmaceutical industry's influence in politics, FDA regulation and pharmaceutical trade policy.