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Originally published June 13 2014

Pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline to pay $120M for fraudulent pill-pushing practices

by J. D. Heyes

(NaturalNews) Regular readers of Natural News are well aware of Big Pharma's deceptive business practices. Here's the latest example of how these companies circumvent the law in order to push more of their products on an unsuspecting public.

GlaxoSmithKline has recently been ordered to pay $105 million to 44 states for giving the company's sales representatives financial incentives to make a number of misleading claims and statements to doctors about the drugs Advair, Paxil and Wellbutrin after attorneys general from the states, and the District of Columbia, sued the drug maker for deceptive trade practices and violations of consumer law.

It is hardly the company's first legal challenge (and resultant loss). In 2012, the mega-Pharma paid out $3 billion as a result of a settlement stemming from its failure to report safety data to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), reporting false prices and introducing misbranded drugs into the marketplace. That settlement involved Avandia, Paxil and Wellbutrin; at the time, it was the largest healthcare fraud settlement in U.S. history.

The new suits involve a pair of mood-altering antidepressants, Paxil and Wellbutrin, and an asthma medication, Advair. According to Colorado's complaint, which was filed in Denver County Court, the FDA had required Glaxo to include a number of warnings about Advair, including that the drug should not be given to patients who can manage their symptoms on low or medium doses of medication.

'GSK provided financial incentives'

However, in court papers, Colorado claimed that, "From the time of Advair's launch in 2000 until the 2010 label changes, GSK used false and misleading representations to promote Advair as a first line treatment for all asthma patients, including mild asthma patients who were not on ICS medication and only used SABAs [short-acting beta agonists] intermittently."

In addition, the papers state, "GSK also provided financial incentives to GSK sales representatives to promote Advair for mild patients, which encouraged sales representatives to make false and misleading representations to health care professionals.

"GSK also promoted Advair as a first-line treatment for mild asthma patients by distributing clinical trials that had been determined by the FDA to be insufficient evidence disclosing health care professionals that the FDA rejected that evidence as insufficient."

Regarding the case against Wellbutrin, the suit says that GSK attempted to encourage healthcare providers to use the medicine for more than it is intended to be, mostly by offering big perks and exotic trips, according to the Colorado's attorney general

"GSK engaged in the off-label promotion of Wellbutrin by encouraging sales representatives to detail health care professionals directly on the off-label uses; through speaker programs that promoted off-label; through continuing medical education programs; by paying health care professionals to attend lavish meetings in places like Jamaica and Bermuda where GSK provided off-label information about Wellbutrin; and by paying health care professionals to be 'consultants' on 'advisory boards' where they were presented with information about off-label uses," the complaint states.

Fines aren't much of a deterrent

Doctors are permitted to prescribe drugs for off-label uses; however, drug companies are not permitted to push drugs for off-label uses, Courthouse News Service reported.

Also, Glaxo promoted its drug, Paxil, as one that was safe and effective for kids and adolescents despite the fact that the FDA has never approved the drug for patients younger than 18, and the drug has been associated with a higher risk of youth suicide, according to the attorney general.

In 2012, Glaxo was not the only Big Pharma to pay huge fines; in all, five pharmaceuticals paid out more than $5.5 billion in fines.

In fact, between 2004 and 2010, a number of major drug companies collectively doled out $7 billion in fines, penalties and as a result of lawsuits aimed at curbing questionable and unethical business practices such as making misleading claims about a drug's safety.

And yet, the threat of massive payouts does not seem to be much of a deterrent, as the latest Glaxo fine suggests.


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