Monday, March 22, 2010

Into the Slammer: Only Answer for Pharma Misdeeds?

Now that our friend, Dr. Roy Poses over at the Health Care Renewal blog, has returned from a trip, I can put my feet up and go back to letting him write this blog for me.

Latest over his way is a post about King Pharmaceuticals having to pay a $42M penalty for a kickback scheme involving the long-acting morphine drug, Kadian:

It's been mentioned numerous times that such penalties, that seem so massive to pore ol' folks like us and really are so piddly compared to the profits made by the big drug companies, can be treated by those companies simply as the cost of doing business and form no deterrent whatsoever to future misdeeds of the same sort. As Ann Woolner writes in Business Week, in a column cited by Health Care Renewal:

The biggest fine ever imposed in U.S. history, $2.3 billion against recidivist Pfizer, represented a mere 14 percent of the revenue stream from selling the drugs at issue over seven years.
So immune to criminal sanctions was the New York-based company that it launched its off-label Bextra campaign at the same time the company was pleading guilty to doing precisely the same thing with other drugs. The anti-inflammatory medication was later yanked from the market because of increased risk of heart attacks and stroke.

This leads Woolner to wonder what would work, which is the main point of the HCR blog post. The FDA could effectively shut down the drug company, which would throw a lot of innnocent people out of work in the middle of the recession and deprive patients of the useful drugs that company makes. A much better alternative, she says, is to note that while felony convictions of individuals--such as responsible company executives--are very difficult because you have to prove intend to defraud, the FDA is empowered by current law to engage in misdemeanor prosecutions, which require a much lower burden of proof. By those means, Woolner says, you might actually get some of the responsible parties to do a little jail time. And maybe that would grab the industry's attention in a way we have so far failed to do.

1 comment:

Roy M. Poses MD said...

I appreciate the kind words, but please don't put your feet up.

There is more material to cover than your blog, our blog, and a dozen others could handle ;-)