In one case, a guilty plea was offered by an inactive subsidiary of a major pharmaceutical company that has no employees and sells no products. Even though this subsidiary pleaded guilty, and it alone cannot sell products to Medicare and Medicaid, it never sold any products in the first place, and its parent company is free to continue selling products to the federal government without any real consequence. Another company, Pfizer's Warner-Lambert division, agreed to $430 million in fines due to its alleged fraudulent marketing of the drug Neurontin. The company claimed that it was illegally marketing that drug only through August 20, 1996. The new law kicked in on August 21, 1996, and that's the day Pfizer claimed it stopped illegally marketing the drug.
The bottom line is that these pharmaceutical companies are structuring their fraud settlements with the federal government in order to avoid exclusion from federal health care programs. It's not that the law has taught them to stop committing fraud -- it's just that the law has forced them to get more creative in finding ways to simultaneously commit fraud while continuing to sell products.
So what does all of this mean? It means that the pharmaceutical industry is engaged in business as usual. They will go after profits using any means necessary, including fraud, criminal activities, deceit, lying to the public, hiding information from the FDA, bribing doctors, and so on. Regrettably, there are no consequences for these actions -- it's as if the entire nation has given the pharmaceutical industry an unlimited stack of "get out of jail free" cards and told them they could engage in any practices no matter how criminal or unethical, as long as they keep making money.
Part of the problem here, of course, is that many U.S. citizens remain invested in pharmaceutical companies. Virtually every mutual fund has some stock in at least one pharmaceutical company, and people seem to be quite pleased with the idea that they're making money, regardless of how many other people are being killed by pharmaceuticals or harmed by their dangerous side effects. People don't seem to have the capacity to look in the mirror and say, "Yes, today I may be $10 richer due to my stock ownership, but I'm also sicker because I'm on antidepressant drugs, and I'm on statin drugs that are making my muscles hurt and are giving me brain fog, and I'm on all sorts of other toxic drugs that are altering my body chemistry, reducing my lifespan, and worsening the quality of life I experience on a daily basis."
But this is a choice that American consumers have to make on their own. Yes, you can make money by being invested in a company that sells extremely profitable, ridiculously priced products to the public, even when those products cause untold harm, but as a whole, we are not better off, and until we start holding pharmaceutical companies accountable for the death and destruction they are causing, and until we stop being so greedy that we will look the other way as long as we're making a buck, then this situation will not change.