Relation between node-positive tumours and breast cancer mortality in the screening trials
Corporate crime in the pharmaceutical industry is common, serious and
A short version of this article has been published in the BMJ:
Gøtzsche PC. Big pharma often commits corporate crime, and this must be stopped.
: To study whether large drug companies routinely break the law.
: Literature review, using Google searches combining the names of the ten
largest drug companies with "fraud."
: I found recent examples (2007 to 2012) of serious crimes committed by
each company. The crimes included marketing drugs for off-label uses,
misrepresentation of research results, hiding data on harms, and Medicaid and
Medicare fraud. Doctors were often complicit in the crimes, as kickbacks were
: The crimes persist because crime pays. Harder sanctions are
thereforee needed, including prison sentences for CEOs and other senior
executives. Doctors and their organisations should consider carefully whether they
find it ethically acceptable to receive money that may have been partly been earned
Conflicts of interest
In recent years, numerous articles and books have described serious cases of
research misconduct and marketing fraud committed by drug companies.1-9 When a
company has been caught, the standard response from the drug industry is that
there are a few bad apples in any enterprise. The interesting question is whether we
are seeing a lone bad apple now and then, which might be excusable, or whether the
I did ten Google searches on 19 June 2012 combining the names of the ten largest
drug companies as of March 201010 with "fraud." There were between 0.5 and 27
million hits for each company and I selected the most prominent case described in
the ten hits on the first Google page. To ensure that the information I found was
trustworthy, I supplied or substituted it using more reliable sources in three cases.
The ten cases I selected were recent ones, from 2007 to 2012, and were all related
to the United States11-20 The most common criminal offences were il egal marketing
recommending drugs for non-approved (off-label) uses, misrepresentation of
research results, hiding data on harms, and Medicaid and Medicare fraud. I describe
the cases in descending order according to the size of the company.10
1. Pfizer agreed to pay $2.3 bil ion in 200911
This was the largest healthcare fraud settlement in the history of the US Department
of Justice at the time. A subsidiary of the firm pleaded guilty to misbranding drugs
"with the intent to defraud or mislead," and the firm was found to have il egally
promoted four drugs for uses which had not been approved by the drug regulators:
Bextra (valdecoxib, an anti-arthritis drug), Geodon (ziprasidone, an antipsychotic
drug), Zyvox (linezolid, an antibiotic) and Lyrica (pregabalin, an epilepsy drug). Part
of the fine ($1 billion) was levied to resolve the allegations that Pfizer paid bribes and
offered lavish hospitality to healthcare providers to encourage them to prescribe the
four drugs. Six whistleblowers would receive $102 million of the civil fines. Pfizer
would have to enter a Corporate Integrity Agreement with the Department of Health
and Human Services (which means that good behavior is required for the next five
2. Novartis agreed to pay $423 million in 201012
The payment concerned criminal and civil liability arising from the illegal marketing of
Trileptal (oxcarbazepine, an epilepsy drug approved for the treatment of partial
seizures, but not for any psychiatric, pain or other uses). The company unlawfully
marketed Trileptal and five other drugs causing false claims to be submitted to
government health care programs. The agreement resolved allegations that the
company paid kickbacks to health care professionals to induce them to prescribe
Trileptal and five other drugs, Diovan (valsartan, for hypertension), Zelnorm
(tegaserod, a drug for irritable bowel syndrome and constipation, which was
removed from the market by US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2007
because of cardiovascular toxicity), Sandostatin (octreotide, a drug that mimics a
natural hormone), Exforge (amlodipine + valsartan, for hypertension) and Tekturna
(aliskiren, for hypertension). The whistleblowers, all former employees of Novartis,
would receive payments totaling more than $25 mil ion. Novartis signed a Corporate
3. Sanofi-Aventis to pay more than $95 mil ion to settle fraud charge in 200913,21
According to the settlement, Aventis had overcharged US and local health agencies
for medications destined for indigent patients. The Justice Department said they
would ensure that programs for the most vulnerable portions of the population did
not pay any more for pharmaceutical products than they should under the law.
Aventis acknowledged that it misreported drug prices for patients in the Medicaid
Drug Rebate program for poor patients. The firm deliberately misquoted the prices,
underpaying rebates to Medicaid and overcharging some public health agencies for
the medications. The fraud occurred between 1995 and 2000 and concerned steroid-
based nasal sprays containing triamcinolone, Azmacort, Nasacort and Nasacort AQ.
4. GlaxoSmithKline to pay $3 billion in 201114,22,23
This is the largest healthcare fraud settlement in US history. GlaxoSmithKline
pleaded guilty to having marketed a number of drugs il egally for off-label use,
including Wel butrin (bupropion, an antidepressant), Paxil (paroxetine, an
antidepressant), Advair (fluticasone + salmeterol, an asthma drug), Avandia
(rosiglitazone, a diabetes drug), and Lamictal (lamotrigine, an epilepsy drug). The
company paid kickbacks to doctors, failed to include certain safety data about
rosiglitazone in reports to the FDA, and sponsored programs suggesting
cardiovascular benefits from Avandia despite warnings on the FDA-approved label
regarding cardiovascular risks. Al egations of Medicaid fraud by misreported prices
were also covered by the agreement. The whistleblowers were four employees of
GlaxoSmithKline, including a former senior marketing development manager and a
regional vice president. The company entered into a Corporate Integrity Agreement.
5. AstraZeneca to pay $520 mil ion in 2010 to settle fraud case15
The charges were that AstraZeneca il egally marketed one of its best-selling drugs,
the antipsychotic drug Seroquel (quetiapine), to children, the elderly, veterans and
inmates for uses not approved by the FDA, including aggression, Alzheimer's, anger
management, anxiety, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dementia, depression,
mood disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and sleeplessness. Further, the
company targeted its il egal marketing towards doctors who do not typically treat
psychotic patients and payed kickbacks to some of them. Other doctors were sent to
lavish resorts to encourage them to market and prescribe the drugs for unapproved
uses. The whistleblower would get more than $45 mil ion.
6. Roche convinces governments to stockpile Tamiflu16,24-26
In preparation for the mild 2009 influenza epidemic, the US government spent $1.5
bil ion and the European governments bil ions of Euros on the purchase of Tamiflu
(oseltamivir).16,24 Based on unpublished trials, Roche had claimed that Tamiflu
reduced hospital admissions by 61%, secondary complications by 67%, and lowered
respiratory tract infections requiring antibiotics by 55%.24 Roche had omitted
publishing most of their clinical trial data and refused to share them with independent
Cochrane researchers. The company had convinced the European Medicines
Agency (EMA) to approve the drug for prevention of influenza complications,26
whereas the FDA required Roche to print a disclaimer to the contrary on the lables:
"Tamiflu has not been proven to have a positive impact on the potential
consequences (such as hospitalizations, mortality, or economic impact) of seasonal,
avian, or pandemic influenza". There is no convincing evidence either that Tamiflu
prevents influenza complications or reduces the spread of influenza to other
Guidance from the WHO had concealed that the authors had received
payment from Roche,16 and Roche also used ghostwriters. One of them said: "The
Tamiflu accounts had a list of key messages that you had to get in. It was run by the
marketing department and you were answerable to them."24 Tamiflu reduces the
duration of influenza by 21 hours,25 which can probably be obtained with far cheaper
drugs like aspirin and paracetamol. Furthermore, Tamiflu has important harms, but
they were concealed to such an extent that the Cochrane researchers could not
7. Johnson & Johnson fined more than $1.1 billion in 201217
A jury found that the company and its subsidiary Janssen had downplayed and
hidden risks associated with the antipsychotic drug Risperdal (risperidone). The
judge found nearly 240,000 violations under Arkansas' Medicaid-fraud law. Jurors
returned a quick verdict in favour of the state, which had argued that Janssen lied
about the potentially life-threatening side effects of Risperdal which, like similar
antipsychotic drugs, include death, strokes, seizures, weight gain and diabetes. The
FDA had ordered Janssen to issue a letter to doctors correcting an earlier letter
saying the drug didn't increase the risk of developing diabetes. Janssen continued to
maintain after the verdict that it did not break the law. Previous verdicts against the
company a few months earlier included a $327 mil ion civil penalty in South Carolina
8. Merck to pay $670 mil ion over Medicaid fraud in 200718
Merck had failed to pay the appropriate rebates to Medicaid and other goverment
health care programs, and had also paid kickbacks to doctors and hospitals to
induce them to prescribe various drugs. The allegations were brought in two
separate lawsuits filed by whistleblowers; one of them would receive $68 million.
From 1997-2001, Merck's sales force used approximately 15 different programs to
induce doctors to prescribe its drugs. These programs primarily consisted of excess
payments to doctors that were disguised as fees paid to them for “training,”
“consultation” or “market research.” The government alleged that these fees were
il egal kickbacks intended to induce the purchase of Merck drugs. Merck agreed to a
9. Eli Lilly to pay more than $1.4 billion for illegal marketing in 200919
Eli Lilly entered into a settlement with the Department of Justice concerning a wide-
ranging, off-label marketing scheme for its top-selling antipsychotic drug, Zyprexa
(olanzapine), with worldwide sales of nearly $40 bil ion between 1996 and 2009. In
the settlement, Eli Lil y would pay $800 mil ion in civil penalties and plead guilty to
criminal charges, paying an additional $600 mil ion fine. The allegations were raised
by six whistleblowers from Lil y who would share in approximately 18 per cent of the
federal and qualifying states' recoveries. Al six whistleblowers were eventually fired
or forced to resign by the company. According to the Complaint, one sales
representative had contacted the company hotline regarding unethical sales
Eli Lilly successful y marketed Zyprexa for numerous off-label uses including
Alzheimer's, depression and dementia, particularly in children and the elderly,
although the harms of the drug are substantial, inducing heart failure, pneumonia,
considerable weight gain and diabetes. Eli Lilly sales people were posed as persons
in the audience who were interested in Zyprexa's expanded use and asked "planted
questions" during off-label lectures and audio conferences for physicians. Another
tactic was that, while knowing the substantial risk for weight gain posed by Zyprexa,
the company minimized the connection between Zyprexa and weight gain in a widely
disseminated videotape called "The Myth of Diabetes" that used "allegedly scientific
studies of questionable integrity as well as the haphazard reporting of adverse
events." The settlement agreement included a Corporate Integrity Agreement.
10. Abbott to pay $1.5 bil ion for Medicaid fraud in 201220
Abbott settled allegations of Medicaid fraud for the company’s il egal marketing of the
epilepsy drug Depakote (valproate); part of the settlement would be paid to the
whistleblowers. Abbott would pay $800 mil ion in civil damages and penalties to
compensate Medicaid, Medicare, and various federal healthcare programs for harm
suffered as a result of its conduct. Abbott also pled guilty to a violation of the Food,
Drug, and Cosmetic Act and agreed to pay a criminal fine and forfeiture of $700
The states alleged that Abbott promoted the sale and use of Depakote for
uses that were not approved by the FDA as safe and effective; that Abbott
Laboratories made false and misleading statements about the safety, efficacy,
dosing and cost-effectiveness of Depakote for some unapproved uses; improperly
marketed the product in nursing homes; and paid kickbacks to induce doctors and
others to prescribe or promote the drug. Abbott entered into a Corporate Integrity
Even though my search strategy was simple, it was very easy to find recent
examples of serious crimes and other misdeeds committed by each of the ten largest
drug companies. It was also easy to find additional crimes committed by the same
ten companies (see selected cases in table 1)27-38 Six of these cases appeared on
the first Google page in the original search, one on a subsequent page, and three
were found using "crime" instead of "fraud." Sometimes many crimes were listed in
the first ten hits in the original search and an example is shown in table 2 for
GlaxoSmithKline.39-43 I decided a priori
to use "fraud" as my search word, but I could
also have used "criminal," "illegal," "FBI," "kickback," "misconduct," "settlement,"
"bribery," "guilty" and "felony," for example, which would have revealed many
additional, recent crimes. It was also easy to find crimes committed by the drug
Thus, there can be no doubt that the crimes are widespread and repetitive,
which suggests they are committed deliberately. The obvious reason is that crime
pays, and a wel -researched example is Neurontin (gabapentin) (table 1). Warner-
Lambert, later bought by Pfizer, paid doctors to allow sales people to sit with them as
they saw patients and to suggest using gabapentin to patients with a wide array of
ailments, including bipolar disorder, pain, migraine headaches, and drug and alcohol
withdrawal,27 although the drug was only approved for treatment-resistant
epilepsy.2,8,44 At some Neurontin meetings, the company paid not only the speakers
but also the listeners, treating them to luxury trips to Hawaii, Florida or the 1996
Olympics in Atlanta27 and a physician-whistleblower has testified that he was trained
to distort the scientific evidence.8 Of 40 influential thought leaders identified as
potential speakers in Northeastern USA, 35 participated in company-sponsored
activities, and 14 requested or were allocated $10,250 to $158,250 in honoraria or
grants.45 One doctor received almost $308,000 to tout Neurontin at conferences.27
The speakers were updated on the company's promotional strategies,45 and Warner-
Lambert tracked high-volume prescribers and rewarded them as speakers or
consultants, or for recruiting patients in studies. Doctors were paid to lend their
names to ghostwritten articles purporting to show that Neurontin worked for
Pfizer agreed in 2009 to pay $430 mil ion to resolve criminal and civil charges,
but as the sales of gabapentin were $2,700 mil ion in 2003 alone, and as about 90%
was for off-label use,27,44 such fines are far too small to be expected to have any
deterrent effect. When Pfizer was fined $2.3 bil ion for off-label use of four other
drugs,11 part of the settlement with the Justice Department was that Pfizer entered a
Corporate Integrity Agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services
to avoid and detect such problems in future. Such agreements may have little teeth,
as Pfizer had previously entered into three such agreements,47 and Merck at least
two (table 1). As five of the ten companies had entered a Corporate Integrity
Agreement in relation to the ten first cases I selected, I looked the other five
companies up. Of the top 10 pharma companies, only Roche was not bound by such
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) claims its
members are “committed to following the highest ethical standards as well as all
legal requirements.” 50 Its Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals51
"Ethical relationships with healthcare professionals are critical to our mission of
helping patients … An important part of achieving this mission is ensuring that
healthcare professionals have the latest, most accurate information available
regarding prescription medicines.”
The disconnect between the proclamations of “highest ethical standards” and the
reality of big pharma’s conduct is vast. The ten largest companies are all signatories
to the code, apart from Roche,51 which was the largest corporate fraudster worldwide
in the 1990's52 (table 1). Further, the top executives' views of themselves are not
shared by their employees. An internal survey of Pfizer employees showed that
about 30% didn't agree with the statement, "Senior management demonstrates
The general public has a more sober view of what the companies are doing. In an
opinion poll that asked 5,000 Danes to rank 51 industries in terms of the confidence
they had in them, the drug industry came second to the bottom, only superseded by
automobile repair companies.53 A US poll also ranked the drug industry at the
bottom, together with oil and tobacco companies.54
The consequences of the crimes are huge
In relation to AstraZeneca's off-label marketing of its antipsychotic drug, Seroquel
(quetiapine), described above,15 the US Attorney General said:
"These were not victimless crimes - il egal acts by pharmaceutical companies and
false claims against Medicare and Medicaid can put the public health at risk, corrupt
medical decisions by health care providers, and take bil ions of dollars directly out of
Doctors are complicit in the crimes when they accept kickbacks and engage in other
types of corruption, often in relation to il egal marketing. When drugs are marketed to
non-approved uses, we don't know whether they are effective, and they could also
be more harmful, e.g. if used in children. This practice has therefore been described
as using the citizens as guinea pigs on a large scale without their informed
Even when doctors use drugs only for approved indications, the crimes have
consequences for the patients. Doctors only have access to selected and
manipulated information,1-9,43 and they therefore believe drugs are far more effective
and safe than they really are. Thus, both legal and il egal marketing leads to massive
overtreatment of the population and a lot of harm that could have been avoided.
As many of the crimes I identified were related to psychiatry, I shall use this
specialty as an example. Psychiatry is a lucrative area for the industry, as most
definitions of psychiatric disorders are vague and easy to manipulate. In Minnesota,
psychiatrists collected more money from drug makers from 2000 to 2005 than
doctors in any other specialty, and those who took most money tended to prescribe
atypical antipsychotics to children most often.55 In Denmark, the sales of selective
serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are now so high that 7% of the entire
population could be in treatment with an adult dose every day.56 Obviously, such
massive use of drugs that affect the brain cannot be healthy,5 and it is clear that the
drug companies have caused this overtreatment. From 1992, the sales of SSRIs
increased almost linearly by a factor of 18, which was closely related (r = 0.97) to the
number of products on the market (and therefore the marketing pressure), which
increased by a factor of 16.56 The psychiatrists are aware of the problem. A 2007
survey of 108 Danish psychiatrists showed that 51% felt they used too much
medicine and only 4% felt they used too little.57 In the United States it is even worse.
The most sold class of drugs in 2009 (in dollars) was antipsychotics and
antidepressants came fourth, after lipid lowering drugs and proton pump inhibitors.58
It is hard to imagine that so many Americans can be so mentally disturbed that these
To tackle a problem effectively, we first need to describe and name it. In 2004-5, The
British House of Commons Health Committee examined the drug industry in detail59
and found that its influence was enormous and out of control.60 The drug industry is
clearly playing hardball, running calculated risks and corrupting people on a large
scale, which lead to the unnecessary loss of thousands of lives every year and great
costs for our national economies.1-9,41,59,61
I therefore believe that what we are seeing has similarities to organized crime.
A previous global vice president of marketing at Pfizer turned whistleblower when the
company wouldn't listen to his complaints about il egal marketing9 holds a similar
"It is scary how many similarities there are between this industry and the mob. The
mob makes obscene amounts of money, as does this industry. The side effects of
organized crime are kil ings and deaths, and the side effects are the same in this
industry. The mob bribes politicians and others, and so does the drug industry …
The difference is, all these people in the drug industry look upon themselves - well,
I’d say 99 percent, anyway - look upon themselves as law-abiding citizens, not as
citizens who would ever rob a bank … However, when they get together as a group
and manage these corporations, something seems to happen … So there’s
something that happens to otherwise good citizens when they are part of a
corporation. It’s almost like when you have war atrocities; people do things they don’t
think they’re capable of. When you’re in a group, people can do things they
otherwise wouldn’t, because the group can validate what you’re doing as okay."
I also suggest we view marketing of drugs as drug pushing. Between the two World
Wars, Hoffman-La Roche supplied morphine to the underworld, and other
companies in the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Switzerland and the United
States also participated in the trade with opium, morphine and heroin.61,63,64 Pushing
drugs people don't need is a highly lucrative business. Valium (diazepam), another
Roche product, was once the top-selling drug, many indications for its use were
highly doubtful, and the wholesale prize was 25 times the price of gold.61 It took
many years before it became accepted that tranquilizers are strongly addictive, but
the hard lessons were forgotten, as we now witness a similar explosion in dubious
indications for SSRIs, although these drugs are also addictive,5,59,65 and for
antipsychotics. The fact that some drugs affecting the brain are legal and others are
illegal is not important, as the drugs are pushed in both cases. After having
examined the drug industry in detail, John Braithwaite published a book in 1984
"People who foster dependence on il icit drugs such as heroin are regarded as
among the most unscrupulous pariahs of modern civilisation. In contrast, pushers of
licit drugs tend to be viewed as altruistically motivated purveyors of a social good."
When a crime has led to the deaths of many people, we should view it as a crime
against humanity. Whether hundreds or thousands of people are kil ed for personal
gains by arms or by pil s should make no difference for our perception of the
We need much harder sanctions for the crimes. Even the large fines in the
United States are insufficiently large. To deter bad behavior, they would need to be
so large that the companies would risk going bankrupt, but unfortunately, this is
unlikely to happen. The largest companies earn so much money to their home
country that the governments wouldn't dare run such a risk. In 2010, the ten largest
companies sold drugs for $303 bil ion,10 which is more than the Gross National
Product for all but the richest 34 countries in the world.66 US federal law requires that
any company found guilty of marketing fraud be automatically excluded from
Medicare and Medicaid, but government prosecutors decided that this exclusion
would lead to the collapse of “too big to fail” Pfizer.67
To bring the crimes to light also outside the United States, we need laws that
protect whistleblowers and ensure they get a fair proportion of the fines. It is curious
and unfortunate that very little happens to the offending companies outside the
United States. When Merck had withdrawn rofecoxib (Vioxx) from the market in 2004
after its marketing frauds68 had caused tens of thousands of cardiovascular
deaths,69,70 Pfizer Denmark grabbed the opportunity and wrote to the doctors that its
Cox-2 inhibitor, celecoxib, did not cause thrombosis.71 The fine for this blatant
misinformation was a mere DKK 12,000 (about $2,000). Three months later, Pfizer
US denied that celecoxib causes heart attacks at an FDA hearing FDA,72 despite
having unpublished evidence to the contrary.73 Indeed, independent researchers
who had access to FDA data confirmed the cardiovascular harms of celecoxib.73
Top executives should be held personally accountable for the crimes so that
they would need to pay attention to the risk of going to prison when they consider
performing or acquiescing in crimes. Merck produced a pamphlet to its sales force in
2001 indicating that rofecoxib was associated with 1/8 the mortality from
cardiovascular causes of that found with other nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory
drugs.74 This was after
the FDA had raised concerns about a five-fold increase in
myocardial infarction in a pivotal trial of rofecoxib! Even so, the same year Merck
pulled rofecoxib off the market, its CEO received performance-based bonuses worth
over $36 mil ion in addition to his base salary75 and he was never indicted. This
complacency with even lethal crimes may be about to change in the USA. In 2010,
the Justice Department charged a former vice president for GlaxoSmithKline (see
We need to avoid the situation that, by settling accusations of crimes, the drug
companies can pretend they are innocent, claiming that they have not been
convicted of a crime. AstraZeneca, for example, denied the charges of fraudulent
marketing and its general counsel said that moving forward and resolving the case
was "in the best interest" of the company.15 And although part of the civil settlement
with GlaxoSmithKline included claims that the company overcharged the US
government for drugs, GlaxoSmithKline did not admit any wrongdoing.23
We also need laws requiring firms to disclose all knowledge about their drugs
and research data,43 and that not only allows, but requires drug agencies to publish
what they know. Currently, the companies may not disclose anything even when
they know that their drugs are more harmful than originally thought. In 2004, the
WHO sent GlaxoSmithKline an alert about cardiac events caused by rosiglitazone,
and the company performed a meta-analysis that confirmed it, which it sent to the
FDA and the European Medicines Agency in 2006, but the drug regulatory agencies
did not make the findings public because of the proprietary nature of companies’ trial
results.76 This is an absurd interpretation of ownership to data and results, which is
untenable,43 and it allows the companies to "push the drug aggressively and hope
they can make a bil ion dollars before someone finds out," as former editor of the
New England Journal of Medicine, Jerome Kassirer, expressed it.15
A standard response from the drug industry to crimes is that the activities
revealed in recent settlements or verdicts occurred many years ago, and practices
have changed radically since then.23 That may be true but not in the way the drug
industry wants us to believe, as the crimes seem to be increasing
. Three-quarters of
the 165 settlements comprising $19.8 bil ion in penalties during the 20-year interval
from 1991 to 2010 occurred in just the past five years of that period.77
Doctors and their organisations should consider carefully whether they find it
ethically acceptable to receive money that may have been partly earned by crimes
that have harmed those people whose interests doctors are expected to take care of.
Many crimes would be impossible to carry out, if doctors weren't wil ing to participate
1. Abramson J. Overdo$ed America: The broken promise of American medicine. New York:
2. Angell M. The truth about the drug companies: How they deceive us and what to do about
3. Avorn J. Powerful medicines: The benefits, risks, and costs of prescription drugs. New
4. Brody H. Hooked: ethics, the medical profession, and the pharmaceutical industry.
5. Healy D. Let them eat Prozac. New York: New York University Press, 2004.
6. Kassirer JP. On the take: how medicine's complicity with big business can endanger your
health. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
7. Mundy A. Dispensing with the truth. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2001.
8. Petersen M. Our daily meds. New York: Sarah Crichton Books, 2008.
9. Rost P. The whistleblower: confessions of a healthcare hitman. New York: Soft Skull
10. Reuters. Factbox - The 20 largest pharmaceutical companies. 2010; Mar 26.
11. BBC News. Pfizer agrees record fraud fine. 2009; Sept 2.
12. United States Department of Justice. Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. to pay more than
$420 mil ion to resolve off-label promotion and kickback allegations. 2010; Sept 30.
13. SourceWatch. Sanofi-Aventis. 2011; Jan 23.
14. Rabiner S. Glaxo $3B fine largest healthcare fraud settlement in history? FindLaw 2011;
15. Khan H, Thomas P. Drug giant AstraZeneca to pay $520 mil ion to settle fraud case.
16. Cohen D, Carter P. WHO and the pandemic flu "conspiracies." BMJ 2010; 340:1274-9.
17. CBS/AP. Ark. judge fines Johnson & Johnson more than $1.1B in Risperdal case. 2012;
18. Silverman E. Merck to pay $670 mil ion over Medicaid fraud. Pharmalot 2008; Feb 7.
19. Reuters. The largest pharma fraud whistleblower case in U.S. history totaling $1.4 bil ion.
20. Anonymous. Abbott Labs to pay $1.5 bil ion more for Medicaid fraud. 2012; May 8.
http://somd.com/news/headlines/2012/15451.shtml (accessed 19 June 2012).
21. AFP. Aventis to pay $95 mil ion to settle fraud charge. 2009; May 28.
22. Department of Justice. GlaxoSmithKline to plead guilty and pay $3 bil ion to resolve fraud
allegations and failure to report safety data. 2012; July 2.
23. Thomas K, Schmidt MS. Glaxo agrees to pay $3 bil ion in fraud settlement. New York
24. Cohen D. Complications: tracking down the data on oseltamivir. BMJ 2009;339:b5387.
25. Jefferson T, Jones MA, Doshi P, Del Mar CB, Heneghan CJ, Hama R, Thompson MJ.
Neuraminidase inhibitors for preventing and treating influenza in healthy adults and children.
Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2012;1:CD008965.
26. Cohen D. Search for evidence goes on. BMJ 2012;344:e458.
27. Tansey B. Huge penalty in drug fraud / Pfizer settles felony case in Neurontin off-label
promotion. San Francisco Chronicle 2004; May 14.
28. Silverman E. Novartis pays $150m to settle pricing fraud. Pharmalot 2011; 18 Nov.
29. Barnes K. Sanofi slammed by FDA over failure to act on Ketek fraud. Outsourcing 2007;
30. More fraud from drug giant GlaxoSmithKline companies - court documents show. Child
31. Jureidini JN, McHenry LB, Mansfield PR. Clinical trials and drug promotion: Selective
reporting of study 329. International Journal of Risk & Safety in Medicine 2008;20:73-81.
32. Barboza D. Tearing down the facade of 'Vitamins Inc.' New York Times 1999; Oct 10.
33. Russell J. Johnson & Johnson feels pain of $75m bribery fines. The Telegraph 2011; 9
34. Kelton E. J&J needs a cure: new CEO allegedly had links to fraud. Forbes 2012; 17
35. U.S. Department of Justice. U.S. pharmaceutical company Merck Sharp & Dohme
sentenced in connection with unlawful promotion of Vioxx. The FBI Federal Bureau of
36. Pringle E. Eli Lil y hides data: Zyprexa, Evista, Prozac risk. Conspiracy Planet.
37. Clinard MB, Yeager PC. Corporate crime. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2006.
38. Harris G. As doctors write prescriptions, drug company writes a check. New York Times
39. Wilson D. Ex-Glaxo executive is charged in drug fraud. New York Times 2010; 9 Nov.
40. Lane C. Bad medicine: GlaxoSmithKline's fraud and gross negligence. Psychology
41. Silverman E. Glaxo to pay $750M for manufacturing fraud. Pharmalot 2010; 26 Oct.
42. GlaxoSmithKline. Wikipedia 2012; 20 June.
43. Gøtzsche PC. Why we need easy access to all data from all clinical trials and how to
44. Harris G. Pfizer to pay $430 mil ion over promoting drug to doctors. New York Times
45. Steinman MA, Bero LA, Chren MM, Landefeld CS. Narrative review: the promotion of
gabapentin: an analysis of internal industry documents. Ann Intern Med 2006; 145(4):284-
46. Petersen M. Suit says company promoted drug in exam rooms. New York Times 2002;
47. Tanne JH. Pfizer pays record fine for off-label promotion of four drugs. BMJ 2009;
48. Office of Inspector General. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Corporate
Integrity Agreement Documents. 2012; 22 June.
49. Comer B. Comply or die: Introducing GSK's new corporate integrity agreement.
50. Kelton E. More drug companies to pay bil ions for fraud, join the "dishonor roll" after
51. PhRMA Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals – Signatory Companies.
52. Multinational Monitor. Corporate crime in the '90s: the top 100 corporate criminals of the
1990s. 1999 July/August vol 20: no 7 & 8.
53. Straarup B. God behanding - så er hoteller nr. 1. Berlingske Tidende 2005; 25 Nov.
54. Harris G. Drug makers seek to mend their fractures image. New York times 2004; July 8
55. Harris G, Carey B, Roberts J. Psychiatrists, children and drug industry’s role. New York
56. Nielsen M, Gøtzsche P. An analysis of psychotropic drug sales. Increasing sales of
selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are closely related to number of products. Int J Risk
57. Arbejdsmiljø og behandlingsformer i den danske psykiatri. Nordjyske Medier, 2007.
58. Press release: IMS Health reports U.S. prescription sales grew 5.1 percent in 2009, to
$300.3 billion. IMS Health 2010; April 1.
59. House of Commons Health Committee. The influence of the pharmaceutical industry.
60. Collier J. Big pharma and the UK government. Lancet 2006;367:97-8.
61. Braithwaite J. Corporate crime in the pharmaceutical industry. London: Routledge &
62. Rost P. http://peterrost.blogspot.dk/ (accessed 26 June 2012).
63. Bobst EH. Bobst: The autobiography of a pharmaceutical pioneer. New York: David
64. Bruun K. International drug control and the pharmaceutical industry. In: Cooperstock R,
ed. Social aspects of the medical use of psychotropic drugs. Addiction Research
Foundation, Ontario, Canada. Papers presented at the International Symposium on Alcohol
and Drug Research, 1973. Department of National Health and Welfare, 1974.
65. Nielsen M, Hansen EH, Gøtzsche PC. What is the difference between dependence and
withdrawal reactions? A comparison of benzodiazepines and selective serotonin re-uptake
inhibitors. Addiction 2012;107(5):900-8.
66. List of countries by GDP (nominal). Wikipedia. 2012; 30 June.
67. Annas GJ. Corporations, profits, and public health. Lancet 2010;376:583-4.
68. Tanne JH. Merck appeals rofecoxib verdict. BMJ 2007;334:607.
69. Topol EJ. Failing the public health - rofecoxib, Merck, and the FDA. N Engl J Med
70. Lenzer J. FDA is incapable of protecting US "against another Vioxx". BMJ
71. Crone M. Pfizer får ny bøde for ulovlig markedsføring. Berlingske 2004; 16 Nov.
72. Harris G. Pfizer says internal studies show no Celebrex risks. New York Times 2005, 5
73. Caldwell B, Aldington S, Weatherall M, Shirtcliffe P, Beasley R. Risk of cardiovascular
events and celecoxib: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J R Soc Med 2006;99(3):132-
74. Waxman HA. The lessons of Vioxx - drug safety and sales. N Engl J Med
75. Whelton RS. Effects of excessive CEO pay on U.S. society.
http://www.svsu.edu/emplibrary/Whelton%20article.pdf (accessed 6 Nov 2007).
76. Cohen D. Rosiglitazone: What went wrong? BMJ 2010;341:530-4.
77. Almashat S, Preston C, Waterman T, Wolfe S; Public Citizen’s Health Research Group.
Rapidly increasing criminal and civil monetary penalties against the pharmaceutical industry:
http://www.citizen.org/documents/rapidlyincreasingcriminalandcivilpenalties.pdf (accessed 4
Table 1. Selected additional crimes for each of the ten largest drug companies
1. Pfizer. Agreed to plead guilty in 2004 to two felonies and pay $430 mil ion in
penalties to settle charges that it fraudulently promoted Neurontin (gabapentin) for
unapproved uses.27 A company whistleblower would receive $27 mil ion. See also
2. Novartis. Agreed to pay $150 mil ion in 2001 to settle lawsuits filed by the states of
Florida and California, as well as a whistleblower, to settle charges that it deliberately
misreported pricing information in order to hike reimbursements from Medicaid.28
3. Sanofi-Aventis. In 2007, the FDA slammed Sanofi-Aventis over its failure to act on
known instances of fraud during a pivotal clinical trial of its antibiotic Ketek
(telithromycin).29 The firm continued to deny the accusations, although one of the
investigators had been convicted of fraud over the enrolment of patients and faking
consent forms and was sentenced to 57 months in prison. During a review by
Congress, a former employee said that the company was aware of fraudulent data
but didn't take any action. The imprisoned investigator had enrolled over 400
patients, at a pay of $400 per patient, whereas another site had enrol ed just 12. In
addition, no patients had withdrawn from the study or were lost to fol ow up, which is
also highly suspicious given the number of patients. Ketek is stil available in the
USA, but carries a black box warning, as it can cause liver failure, and it is no longer
4. GlaxoSmithKline. In 1999, US psychiatrists Charles Nemeroff and Alan
Schatzberg published a drug pushing psychiatry textbook that was ghostwritten by
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).30 The company withheld scientific studies showing that
Paxil (paroxetine) was ineffective in children and adolescents with depression,30 but
in 2001, GSK published a ghostwritten study, trial 329, which became widely cited
and believed. In 2004, the Attorney General of New York State sued GSK for
repeated and persistent consumer fraud, which opened the company's archives.
GSK lied to its sales force telling them that trial 329 showed "REMARKABLE Efficacy
and Safety."31 In internal documents, the company admitted that the study didn't
show Paxil was effective, but after extensive data manipulations, the published paper
reported positive effects.31 Eight children became suicidal on the drug versus one on
placebo. The publication, however, listed only one headache as being related to the
drug, and the suicidal thoughts and behaviour were called emotional lability or
5. AstraZeneca. Paid $355 mil ion in 2003 after pleading guilty to charges that it
encouraged physicians to il egally request Medicare reimbursements for its drug
against prostate cancer, Zoladex (goserelin), and bribed doctors to buy it.15
6. Roche. High-level executives in Roche led a cartel that, according to the US
Justice Department's antitrust division, was the most pervasive and harmful criminal
antitrust conspiracy ever uncovered.32 For a full decade, top executives at some of
the world's largest drug companies, largely from Europe and Asia, met secretly in
hotel suites and at conferences, and working together in a coalition they brazenly
called 'Vitamins Inc.,' they carved up world markets and carefully orchestrated price
increases, in the process defrauding some of the world's biggest food companies.
Roche alone had revenues of $3.3 bil ion in the United States while the conspiracy
was running, and during that time, Justice Department investigators say the
conspirators gradually and artfully raised the prices of raw vitamins, so as not to
attract notice; they also rigged the bidding process. After the conspiracy collapsed,
those involved agreed to pay nearly $1 bil ion to settle Federal antitrust charges, and
virtually every big vitamin maker in the world was on the brink of agreeing to pay an
additional $1.1 bil ion. Roche was hit the hardest, agreeing to pay $500 mil ion to
settle charges, equivalent to about one year's revenue from its vitamin business in
the United States. Two Roche executives were sentenced by Federal courts to
prison terms of a few months. Roche had gone this route before. In the early 1970's,
it was fined by antitrust officials in Europe for engaging in anticompetitive behaviour
in the sale of its two tranquilizers, Librium (chlordiazepoxide) and Valium (diazepam).
7. Johnson & Johnson. Was to pay more than $75m to UK and US authorities in
2009 to settle corruption charges spanning three European countries and Iraq.33 The
charges related to alleged payment of bribes to doctors in Greece, Poland and
Romania to encourage them to use the company's products and to hospital
administrators in Poland to award the company contracts. In April 2012, the US
Government stated in a motion in a potential multi-bil ion healthcare fraud case
against Johnson & Johnson, which began with a whistleblower lawsuit, that Alex
Gorsky, who was set to become Johnson & Johnson’s next chief executive officer,
was actively involved and had firsthand knowledge of the alleged fraud.34 The
allegations were that Johnson & Johnson paid kickbacks to induce Omnicare, the
nation’s largest nursing home pharmacy, to purchase and recommend the
antipsychotic drug, Risperdal (risperidone) and other of the company's drugs. The
government’s motion stated that Gorsky, being Vice President of Marketing, was in a
position to know why the company chose not to inform Omnicare or members of
Janssen’s sales staff that the FDA had warned the company that marketing
Risperdal as safe and effective in the elderly would be false and misleading because
the drug had not been adequately studied in that population, and that the FDA had
rejected the company's attempt to get approval to market Risperdal for treatment of
psychotic and behavioral disturbances in dementia (by far the most prevalent use of
Risperdal in Omnicare-served nursing facilities) because of inadequate safety data.
Despite the weight of federal and state investigations of the Risperdal allegations,
Johnson & Johnson’s board of directors rewarded Gorsky by selecting him to be the
8. Merck. Pleaded guilty in 2012 to a criminal violation of federal law related to its
promotion and marketing of the anti-arthritis drug, Vioxx (rofecoxib), and to pay
nearly a bil ion dollars in a criminal fine and civil damages.35 The crimes involved off-
label marketing of Vioxx and false statements about the drug’s cardiovascular safety.
As part of the settlement, Merck agreed to enter into an expansive Corporate
Integrity Agreement (Merck entered a similar agreement in 2007,18 see main text).
9. Eli Lilly. Agreed to pay $36 mil ion in 2005 to settle criminal and civil charges
related to the il egal marketing of Evista (raloxifene, a drug against osteoporosis) for
the prevention of breast cancer and heart disease in letters sales people sent to
doctors.36 The company had also concealed data that showed an increased risk of
ovarian cancer. Eli Lil y entered into a Corporate Integrity Agreement. Eli Lil y's
antidepressant, Prozac (fluoxetine), was promoted off-label for several ailments, e.g.
shyness, eating disorders and low self esteem, and the company concealed the
increased risk of suicide and violence associated with the drug.5,36 The British
Medical Journal had received a series of internal Lil y documents and studies on
Prozac from an anonymous source, which the BMJ sent to the FDA. These
documents were made available in a litigation case in 1994, after which they
disappeared. Throughout the 1990s, while swearing publicly that Prozac did not
increase the risk of suicide or violence, Lil y quietly settled lawsuits out of court and
was able to keep the incriminating evidence hidden by obtaining court orders to seal
the documents, just as it had been doing with Zyprexa until the latest batch of
10. Abbott. In 2001, TAP Pharmaceuticals, a joint venture of Abbott and Takeda,
paid $875 mil ion, pleading guilty to criminal charges of fraud for inducing physicians
to bil the government for drugs that the company gave for free or at a reduced price
to doctors.2,37,38 In 2003, Abbott paid $622 mil ion to settle an investigation into sales
practices for liquids to feed the seriously il .37 Abbott gave tubes and pumps to
deliver the liquid food directly into the patient's digestive tracts in exchange for large
Table 2. Some of the alleged crimes and other misdeeds identified in the first
ten hits of a Google search combining GlaxoSmithKline with fraud
In 2010, the Justice Department charged a former vice president and top lawyer for
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) with making false statements and obstructing a federal
investigation into il egal marketing of the antidepressant Wel butrin (bupropion) for
weight loss.39 The indictment accused the vice president of lying to the FDA, denying
that doctors speaking at company events had promoted Wel butrin for uses not
approved by the agency, and of withholding incriminating documents.
A manufacturing plant in Puerto Rico was closed down in 2009 because it produced
defective drugs.40 The plant had not only sent out batches of Paxil (paroxetine)
containing two different doses, it had also mixed different drugs, e.g. Avandia
(rosiglitazone) with Tagamet (cimetidine) and with Paxil. GSK pleaded guilty to
felony-fraud and was fined $750 mil ion, $96 mil ion of which would go to the
whistleblower, the company's global quality assurance manager, whose documented
concerns were ignored by senior management that fired her.41 GSK lied to federal
investigators about the problems, despite pharmacists calling the plant directly when
patients showed up with different coloured pil s in their medicine. In pleading guilty to
the felony, GSK admitted that it had distributed adulterated drugs, but the company
lied to the public when it indicated that it went voluntarily to the FDA in 2002 out of
safety concerns about the plant and when it said that, 'The plant was closed in 2009
due to a declining demand for the medicines made there.' Blockbusters such as
Avandia, Paxil, and Tagamet could hardly be said to be in declining demand.
In 2007, a meta-analysis showed that the antidiabetes drug Avandia (rosiglitazone)
causes myocardial infarction and cardiovascular death.42,43 This had been known by
GSK for many years but the company failed to warn the regulatory authorities and
the public and intimidated physicians raising uncomfortable questions.43 In 1999, the
company, then known as SmithKlineBeecham, completed a trial that found more
cardiac problems with rosiglitazone than with pioglitazone, but an executive stated in
an email that, 'These data should not see the light of day to anyone outside of GSK.'
When another GSK trial was published, it showed the same risk of complications for
rosiglitazone as for the comparator, but this result was false.43 An FDA scientist who
had access to the case reports found many missing cases of cardiac problems that
favored rosiglitazone four to one and an increased risk of myocardial infarction.
Rosiglitazone was suspended in Europe in 2009 whereas it remained on the market
GSK marketed paroxetine in 1992 and falsely claimed for the next ten years that it
was 'not habit forming.'42 In 2001, the BBC reported that the World Health
Organization had found Paxil to have the hardest withdrawal problems of any
antidepressant drug. In 2002, the FDA published a warning about the drug, and the
International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Associations declared the
company guilty of misleading the public about paroxetine on US television.
In 2006, GSK would pay $14 mil ion to resolve allegations that state-government
programs paid inflated prices for the firm’s anti-depressant drug Paxil because the
firm engaged in patent fraud, anti-trust violations and frivolous litigation to maintain a
monopoly and block generic versions from entering the market.42
In 2003 GSK signed a Corporate Integrity Agreement and paid $88 mil ion in a civil
fine for overcharging Medicaid for Paxil, and the nasal-allergy spray Flonase
In 2003, GSK faced a demand for $7.8 bil ion in backdated taxes and interest, the
highest in the history of the US Internal Revenue Service.42
In 2006, GSK settled a tax dispute agreeing to pay $3.1 bil ion in a case that
concerned intracompany 'transfer pricing.'42
Psychoactive Medication Information for Patients (Pharmacotherapy - Psychopharmacology) Medication Class Chemical Name Trade Name Side Effects & Possible Uses Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors practitioner and/or dispensing pharmacist to discuss the range of possible or common Zoloft, Concorz, Sertra, Setrona, Eleva, Xydep, Sertracor S
The JA-89P wireless outdoor PIR detector The JA-89P is an outdoor intruder detector designed to detect human body panel) first to learn how to enter enrollment mode. Only use a lithium battery movement in a protected area. It supplements a double-zone PIR sensor of type AA 3.0 V / 3.6 V. The correct battery position is marked on the battery produced by Optex with a