Thursday, December 1, 2011

Merck to Pay $950 Million in Settlement Over Vioxx Health Care Fraud

Vioxx is not an antidepressant, but we wanted to continue to enlighten readers of the unethical actions of Pharmaceutical Companies. Merck will pay $950 million and was forced to plead guilty to a criminal misdemeanor in their illegal promotion of Vioxx and their deception of the government and consumers. This court action is part fine ($320 million) and in part to settle civil penalties ($630 million). This came about from a 2004 study showed that Vioxx increased the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Vioxx was initially approved as a pain killer in 1999. This ruling is based on Merck promoting via marketing and pharmaceutical representatives unauthorized “off label” marketing. According to the Wall Street Journal a Merck spokesman Ronald Rogers indicated that some sales representatives promoted Vioxx as a treatment to rheumatoid arthritis before FDA approval. The government indicated that its representatives didn’t inform medical practitioners regarding Vioxx’s issue with cardiovascular safety.

Other pharmaceutical companies have recently been fined for misrepresentations such as GlaxoSmithKline $3 billion settlement for improper drug marketing. Dey Inc. Dey Pharma L.P. agreed to pay $280 million to settle False Claims Act allegations. The Justice department indicated that the Dey Pharma inflated government payments when they charge the Medicare and Medicaid a higher amount over actual price paid by health care providers. That discovery was related by Ven-A-Care. Elli-Lilly, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca have also been fined heavily in the past few years.

Pharmaceutical companies have shown a pattern in promoting their products for other reasons then FDA approval. This misrepresentation and unethical behavior must be from top management to the sale representatives. Why would a sale rep inform medical practitioners of the uses of drugs unless they were told to indicate so by management? This also brings up another issue as doctors are allowed to prescribe drugs for “off label” uses. Shouldn’t a drug be only allowed to be used for the reason it was approved by all involved in the drugs distribution? It looks like a Congressional law is needed here.