The pharmaceutical industry is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to schemes to defraud the government. From hiding evidence of high-risk side effects to offering kickbacks to doctors to push their products, drug makers have increasingly been brought to justice by whistleblowers who know about the criminal behavior and report it to authorities. Settlement of just 80 drug manufacturing cases has returned over $19 billion to the U.S. government and the states as of May 2012, according to the non-profit Taxpayers Against Fraud Education Fund.
More despicable than the taxpayer rip-off is the danger these companies create for patients. Consider these recent cases:
- Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals in October agreed to pay $95 million to settle a whistleblower-initiated False Claims Act lawsuit alleging, among other things, that the company marketed a drug called Aggrenox as “one of the best” drugs to reduce heart attack risk even though it was never approved for such a purpose and there was no scientific evidence to support the claim. The lawsuit also claimed Boehringer Ingelheim promoted the use of asthma and cough medications Atrovent and Combivent for children when the drugs had not been tested or approved for children, and also promoted taking higher than approved dosages of the two drugs.
- Takeda Pharmaceuticals has been accused in a whistle-blower lawsuit of withholding evidence that patients who took its diabetes drug, Actos, had higher rates of bladder cancer, cardiovascular problems, suicide, schizophrenia, epilepsy and grand mal seizures when compared to similar drugs like Avandia. The whistleblower, whose job it was to review reports of side-effects, said in the lawsuit that higher-ups with the company obstructed the disclosure of side effect reports and asked her to alter her reports to make the drug appear safer than it was.
In each case, a company insider came forward to report the abuse to authorities. In the case of Boehringer Ingelheim, the action put an end to the scheme, punished the company financially and sent a clear message that such fraud won’t be tolerated. As for Takeda Pharmaceutical, the company is also the target of hundreds of patient lawsuits that hopefully, will result in compensation for injuries and deaths.
Pharmaceutical companies make billions of dollars a year, and most drugs are safe. However, a few bad players can cause enormous damage not only to the industry’s public image but to any patient or family harmed for no reason other than greed. Whistleblowers, by reporting illegal behavior, have become a potent force for drug and patient safety.
Janet, Jenner & Suggs’ attorneys are national leaders in bringing pharmaceutical companies to justice, and also represent whistleblowers in False Claims Act lawsuits. The combination makes us especially powerful when it comes to investigating and litigating fraud by drug companies. We stand ready to represent any whistleblower with knowledge of drug company fraud. If you want to blow the whistle, we’ll make sure it’s heard.