- Alain Braillon, senior consultant in public health1
Stephen Whitehead, the new head of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, thinks that the bad press given to the drug industry is largely undeserved.1 A paragraph heading calls for collaboration. Facts are clear and this call is frightening because in the US laws exist and are implemented.
Public Citizen has made the diagnosis: “While the defense industry used to be the biggest defrauder of the federal government under the False Claims Act, a law enacted in 1863 to prevent military contractor fraud, the pharmaceutical industry has greatly overtaken the defense industry.” Settlements for criminal and civil monetary penalties reached a total of $20bn (£12.9bn; €15.4bn) during 1991-2010, with three quarters of the settlements and penalties occurring between 2006 and 2010.2
Merck agreed with the US Department of Justice on 22 November 2011 to pay $950m to resolve criminal and civil charges over the promotion and marketing of rofecoxib (Vioxx).3 A few weeks before, GlaxoSmithKline agreed on $3bn to settle civil and criminal investigations into its sales practices for numerous drugs—its fourth case since April 2008. This payment surpassed the previous record of $2.3bn by Pfizer in 2009.4
The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA; US Bribery Act) is enforced by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the US Justice Department. Recently they have been looking into drug companies’ foreign sales practices. Johnson & Johnson was the first company to pay to resolve FCPA allegations in April 2011 ($70m). Pfizer has just reached agreement in principle to resolve “improper payment” matters outside the US.5 Eli Lilly is close to a settlement. AstraZeneca is working to reach an agreement. Many others are being questioned.
Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:d8219
Competing interests: None declared.