Thanks again to whistleblowers, another mega pharmaceutical company will pay a hefty price for employing underhanded and greedy marketing tactics.
Abbott Laboratories announced last week that it will pay $1.6 billion to settle federal and state claims that it improperly marketed the anti-seizure drug Depakote for uses not approved by the FDA.
The money will be divided between federal and state governments to settle civil allegations ($800 million), criminal penalties ($700 million) and consumer protection matters ($100 million), the company said.
This is the latest in a string of settlements involving drug companies for false marketing filed by whistleblowers under the False Claims Act. As a pharmaceutical attorney for nearly 30 years, I’m deeply familiar with how some pharmaceutical companies evade the law in order to increase profits, no matter that it’s ethically wrong and may put patients at risk. While most pharmaceutical companies do things the right way, there are always those that think that the rules just don’t apply to them.
Depakote has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat epilepsy and bipolar disorder and for migraine prevention. Lawsuits filed by whistleblowers contained evidence that Abbott also marketed the drug also as a treatment for schizophrenia, agitated dementia and autism. Although doctors can prescribe drugs “off-label” to treat conditions not approved by the FDA, companies are prohibited from marketing them in this way.
The suits claimed Abbott encouraged and trained its salespeople to market Depakote off-label to nursing-home directors, geriatric doctors and other long-term care providers, and that it gave doctors illegal kickbacks to talk about off-label uses of the drug to boost sales.
We typically first hear about cases such as this from whistleblowers. Whistleblowers are usually people inside a company who witness illegal activity and want to do something to stop it. They contact a law firm such as Janet, Jenner & Suggs, LLC to work with them to stop illegal practices and to hold companies accountable. These brave insiders do all of us a favor by going public.