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Originally published June 10 2011

Feds to start directly targeting drug company execs in health care fraud schemes

by Ethan A. Huff, staff writer

(NaturalNews) The days of drug companies simply settling out of court every time they break the law may soon be coming to an end. In a move that represents a significant shift toward punishing individuals for crimes rather than faceless corporations, federal officials say they will begin personally going after CEOs and other company executives whose companies fraudulently bilk Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal programs out of millions of dollars, or that falsely market dangerous drugs.

When a 1996 law was passed that banned drug companies convicted of felony charges from further participating in any federal health programs, Big Pharma quickly devised creative ways to get around it. As a result, drug companies for years have been able to continually break the law without much consequence by simply settling for a few million dollars, and continuing on with shady dealings that raked in a whole lot more (

But now, company execs could face criminal charges for crimes committed by their companies, even if they claim to have had no awareness that any crimes were being committed. And drug companies will no longer be able to skirt by after breaking the law -- if they cheat the government health system, they will lose any eligibility to participate in it. After all, ignorance of the law or of the illicit dealings of one's company have never been a legitimate excuse for anyone else to evade justice -- why should it be any different for drug companies?

"When you look at the history of health care enforcement, we've seen a number of Fortune 500 companies that have been caught not once, not twice, but sometimes three times violating the trust of the American people, submitting false claims, paying kickbacks to doctors, marketing drugs which have not been tested for safety and efficacy," said Lewis Morris, chief counsel for the inspector general of the Health and Human Services Department (HHS), to The Washington Post.

"To our way of thinking, the men and women in the corporate suite aren't getting it. If writing a check for $200 million isn't enough to have a company change its ways, then maybe we have got to have the individuals who are responsible for this held accountable. The behavior of a company starts at the top."

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