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GlaxoSmithKline Pays Largest Health Care Fraud Penalty To Date

by Faith Eischen, published


GlaxoSmithKline LLC pleads guilty this week to a $3 billion fine for illegally promoting unapproved drugs as well as failing to disclose the drugs safety precautions.

Deputy Attorney General James M. Coles said the $3 billion fine is the largest penalty ever paid by a drug company for healthcare fraud. As part of the penalty, government officials will supervise GlaxSmithKline for the next five years to ensure the corporation’s acquiescence.

“Let me be clear, we will not tolerate health care fraud," Cole told a news conference at the Justice Department.

“For far too long, we have heard that the pharmaceutical industry views these settlements merely as the cost of doing business," the Associated Press reports Assistant Genteral Stuart F. Delery, head of Justice’s civil division stated in a news conference. "That is why this administration is committed to using every available tool to defeat health care fraud."

"Today's resolution seeks not only to punish wrongdoing and recover taxpayer dollars, but to ensure GSK's future compliance with the law."

GlaxoKlineSmith was guilty of advertising an anti-depressant drug, Paxil, for children. The FDA never approved Paxil for patients under the age of eighteen. GKS also promoted Wellbutrin, as a drug for weight loss, sexual dysfunction, substance addictions, and ADHD. The FDA had only approved Wellbutrin as a means for treating major depressive disorder. GSK also failed to let the FDA know of the results of two studies on the cardiovascular safety of the diabetes drug Avandia.

U.S. Attorney, Carmin M. Ortiz pointed out more of the corporation’s illegal behavior:

"GSK's sales force bribed physicians to prescribe GSK products using every imaginable form of high priced entertainment, from Hawaiian vacations to paying doctors millions of dollars to go on speaking tours to a European pheasant hunt to tickets to Madonna concerts, and this is just to name a few."

According to the Huffington Post, “[Out] of the penalties, $1 billion covers criminal fines and forfeitures and $2 billion is for civil settlements with the federal government and the state governments of Massachusetts and Colorado.

In 2009, the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Team was created and since then has collected approximately $10.2 billion in settlements and fines, as well as pressed criminal charges against 800 defendants.

"California consumers have the right to expect that their health and well-being — and not profit — drives decisions about their care," Kamala D. Harris, California’s Attorney General said in a statement.

"This settlement protects consumers and puts an end to unscrupulous marketing practices, kickbacks and illegal labeling of prescription drugs."

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