GSK fined GBP1.9bn for illegal off-label marketing of drugs

Wed, 04 Jul 2012
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has agreed to pay a $3 billion (£1.9 billion) fine to settle what is believed to be the biggest case of healthcare fraud in US history.

The case concerns 10 drugs in total, including the antidepressant medications Paxil and Wellbutrin, and the controversial diabetes drug Avandia.

The UK's largest pharmaceutical firm has admitted to illegally promoting both Paxil, which is branded Seroxat in Britain, and Wellbutrin for unapproved use in the treatment of children and adolescents in the past, breaking US laws regarding the marketing and development of pharmaceuticals .

Documents released by the US Justice Department revealed how the firm bribed hundreds of doctors to prescribe the drugs over their rivals using lavish gifts, paid scientific speakers to give hyped up presentations on the medicines; hired "independent" doctors to promote the treatments; and even paid for misleading articles to appear in medical journals.

In addition, GSK has also pleaded guilty to charges that it hid data and made unsupported safety claims about its diabetes medicine Avandia to the US Food and Drug Administration .

The international healthcare giant will now pay $1bn in criminal fines, as well as $2bn in civil penalties, and has also agreed to be monitored by government officials for the next five years.

US Deputy Attorney General James Cole said: "We are determined to stop practices that jeopardise patients' health, harm taxpayers and violate the public trust - and this historic action is a clear warning to any company that chooses to break the law."

Following the charges, GSK chief executive Andrew Witty said procedures for compliance, marketing and selling had been changed at GSK's US unit, adding that the company has "learnt from the mistakes that were made".
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