(NaturalNews) A new report conducted by ProPublica, Consumer Reports, and National Public Radio (NPR) digs even deeper down the rabbit hole of drug company fraud, exposing rampant off-label prescribing, drug company-funded speaking engagements, and illegal monetary and gift compensation programs -- all designed to push as many drugs on the public as possible.
According to the report, the drug industry has spent roughly $7 billion in the past three years to pay out settlements for such practices, many of which were brought forth by former drug company sales representatives that witnessed the activity. According to these whistle-blowers, drug companies routinely break the law to increase drug sales, even after they have signed compliance agreements promising to follow the law.
After the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves a drug for a specific use, drug companies often lavish doctors with gifts, fancy dinners, extravagant vacations, and cash to prescribe the drugs for other, non-approved uses. Big Pharma even uses doctors to tell other doctors to do the same thing, often hiring them to speak at seminars.
Angela Maher, a former sales representative for Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical, alleged in a lawsuit that the drug giant pushed an anti-seizure drug for 27 different off-label uses. She observed drug company executives paying off physicians to speak glowingly about the drug at conferences. And if the doctors failed to speak often enough about the drug during their speeches, they were nixed from future participation. Ortho-McNeil recently pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges and settled for $81 million.
Forest Laboratories recently pleaded guilty to felony and misdemeanor charges as well for paying physicians to allow company sales representatives to observe their practices and push them to prescribe Celexa and Lexapro, two antidepressant drugs. Company representatives also continued to pay doctors for prescribing the drugs, as long as increases in sales were enough to make it worthwhile.
Other companies implicated in similar activity include Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, which is now owned by Pfizer, Allergan, maker of Botox, Cephalon, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly, and Merck.