Monday, December 23, 2013

On the European Front: Yet More Industry Corruption

I've so far restricted my periodic reports of settlements and guilty verdicts against the big drug companies to US-based actions. Dr. Roy Poses over at Health Care Renewal--
--being a more cosmopolitan sort of guy, picked up this news item, which he says got very little play in the US media.

Johnson & Johnson got hit with a more-than 10-million euro judgment and Sandoz with a 5 million euro judgment for anti-competitive activities around the fentanyl opiate-pain-killer patch. The patch was about to go off patent and Sandoz was poised to offer a generic equivalent, but instead, the two companies entered into a so-called cooperation agreement, which meant that J&J paid off Sandoz to delay their generic so that prices could stay high on the brand-name patch. This is a form of "evergreening" that we've seen frequently in the US, and apparently the Europeans don't like it any better than we ought to.

OK, so as we have seen in the past, a few million dollars is chickenfeed to these big firms. Dr. Poses goes into some detail on his blog about the former CEO of J&J, on whose watch this breach occurred along with numerous other illegalities, and how he retired with huge bonuses and a ton of J&J stock; and how the current CEO is already pulling down a big paycheck with no indication that any changes are occurring in how the company is managed. So far, same ol' same ol'--we have covered many times, as did Dr. Poses even more times, how no actual individual ever seems to be to blame for these misdeeds, and somehow the misdeeds just keep happening as a result.

But for our edification, Dr. Poses adds a bit of a new twist by reminding us of a partial rundown of the J&J board of directors:
  • Dr.Mary Sue Coleman, the president of the University of Michigan
  • Dr. Michael M.E. Johns, Chancellor of Health Affairs Emeritus at Emory University
  • Dr. A. Eugene Washington, Dean of the medical school and Vice Chancellor of Health Sciences, UCLA 
  • Dr. Susan Lindquist, Professor of Biology at MIT, former director, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research
  • Dr. Mark McClellan, former head of both FDA and Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, senior fellow, Brookings Institution

Dr. Poses suggests that even if the various corporate types on the rest of the board don't give a hoot about integrity or the well-being of patients, these people are supposed to have a set of values that takes such things seriously. But presumably the wrongdoers in high executive positions at J&J could not keep committing their sins, and then being richly rewarded for them, unless all these board members acquiesced in the practices. Which, in turn, suggests that the leaders of health care and of academic research cannot be distinguished from corporate execs these days. All these folks appear simply to take it for granted that once you rise to a certain level of power in the system, it's okay to extract all the money you can, no matter what the impact on public health or well-being.

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