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Amgen admits to criminal behavior in off-label drug marketing scheme, receives minimal slap on wrist

Thursday, March 07, 2013 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: Amgen, off-label marketing, pharmaceutical profits

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(NaturalNews) The pharmaceutical drug cartel has a pretty good gig going for itself in America today. And the formula is always the same -- break the law to reap billions of dollars in profits, and share a few million of the spoils with the federal government after getting caught. This is the wholly corrupt scenario that has played out once again in federal court, this time with Amgen Inc., the world's largest biotechnology company, which recently pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of illegally marketing its blockbuster anemia drug Aranesp.

After generating billions of dollars from Aranesp over the years -- the company sold $2.3 billion worth of the drug just in 2011 -- Amgen was found recently to have illegally marketed the deadly drug for anemia caused by cancer, a condition for which it had never been approved. According to reports, Amgen also pushed higher doses of Aranesp, and more frequent treatment schedules for the drug, in clear violation of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) express approval for the drug as a treatment for anemia caused by chemotherapy treatments.

Federal prosecutors eventually took action against Amgen for these crimes, which spurred the company to recently admit to wrongdoing. But instead of receiving due penalty for its criminal behavior, and its executive leadership team being held personally responsible, Amgen has been summoned to pay a mere $762 million in a civil settlement and criminal fines. This is a very small fraction, of course, of the tens of billions of dollars Amgen has made over the years from selling Aranesp.

Even more outrageous were statements made by acting U.S. attorney Marshall Miller, who confirmed that Amgen will not lose any of its drug contracts with the federal government, which provide a steady stream of reliable income for the company. According to Reuters, losing such contracts would have "crippled" Amgen's business (which is exactly the type of real penalty the company should have received for its crimes).

Breaking the law, paying civil fines just a cost of doing business for Big Pharma

Speaking about the case, Miller admitted that Amgen "pursu[ed] profits at the risk of patients' safety," as well as "circumvented the FDA approval process." And yet Amgen was so-called "punished" with the equivalent of a small tax on its profits, which of course came in the form of a minimal civil settlement. Amgen's CEO Robert Bradway was not held personally responsible, nor was the company's executive vice president, Fabrizio Bonanni -- a small slap on the non-human, corporate wrist is all that Amgen received (http://www.amgen.com/about/leadership_team.html).

It is reported that Amgen had actually been setting aside money in advance to pay for the expected settlement, almost like a "corporate crimes" bank account specifically earmarked for dealing with criminal cases that the company would inevitably find itself embroiled in. This just further confirms what we have been saying for a long time here at NaturalNews -- breaking the law is just one component of the drug industry's business model, and paying the resultant fines a mere line item in its overall cost of doing business.

"Companies might well view such fines as a quite small percentage of their global revenue," explained Kevin Outterson, a lawyer from Boston University, about the Big Pharma scam. "The government merely recoups a portion of the financial fruit of firms' past misdeeds" (http://www.naturalnews.com).

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