Private health care: Placing children at risk to increase profit

You have to wonder how executives at GlaxoSmithKline sleep at night?

Yesterday the British drug manufacturer agreed to a civil settlement with the U.S. Government in which they will pay $3 billion in fines — the largest health care fraud settlement in that country’s history.

GSK admitted to misbranding antidepressants and marketing them for uses not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. That included marketing the antidepressant drugs to children despite warnings of an increased risk of suicide for children under 18.

GSK also failed to notify the FDA that its diabetes drug, Avandia, might cause heart problems. The CBC reports the drug was pulled off the shelf in Europe and its sales have become restricted in the U.S.

When news of the impending deal was initially released last year, the company’s stock actually rose, leading one to wonder whether this is just becoming part of the cost of doing business for big Pharma?

It certainly isn’t the first time for GSK. In 2010 SB Pharmaco, a unit of GSK, paid a $150 million criminal fine and $600 million in civil penalties after pleading guilty for selling “adulterated” drugs manufactured in Puerto Rico.

2011 was a record year for health fraud in the United States with the U.S. Justice Department prosecuting 1,235 new cases.

GSK says they have “removed” employees engaged in misconduct.

Health care fraud is becoming so prevalent in the United States that there is now talk about holding executives personally accountable. When fines become standard business practice, perhaps a stay in jail may actually reverse this behaviour. Then again, there seems to be one rule for citizens and another for those at the helm of major corporations found guilty of criminal activity.


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