In a case that clearly illustrates the extent of corruption, callousness and greed on the part of Big Pharma’s cancer industry, two drug companies have been ordered to pay nearly $70 million to settle a federal lawsuit over charges that the companies lied about the effectiveness of a cancer drug.
The two companies, Genentech and OSI Pharmaceuticals, agreed to pay $67 million to avoid further litigation over its deceptive marketing of Tarceva, a drug used to treat non-small-cell lung cancer.
From the Los Angeles Times:
“The lawsuit claimed that from 2006 to 2011 Genentech and its marketing partner OSI Pharmaceuticals promoted Tarceva to treat all patients with non-small-cell lung cancer even though studies had shown that it worked for just those who had never smoked or had a certain gene mutation known as EGFR. Epidermal growth factor receptor is a type of protein found on the surface of cells in the body.”
A former Genentech employee, Brian Shields, filed the whistleblower suit in 2011 after his employers refused to acknowledge his concerns regarding the marketing of the ineffective drug. Shields said that he faced retaliation from his superiors after voicing his concerns and was told that he was not a “team player.”
Lies and bribes
Details of the lawsuit reveal the unscrupulous and illegal marketing techniques employed by the drug maker, which almost certainly led to the early deaths of patients who received treatment involving the useless drug.
“The lawsuit said the companies gave their sales representatives promotional materials that discouraged doctors from testing patients for EGFR.
“The companies also promoted Tarceva, the lawsuit said, by giving doctors illegal kickbacks disguised as fees for making speeches or serving on Genentech’s advisory boards.
“Sales representatives across the country were ‘instructed to spend lavishly’ on physicians, the case said, and given ‘an unlimited budget to wine and dine.’
“Genentech also organized lunches or dinners for lung cancer patients where ‘patient ambassadors’ were paid fees to speak about how Tarceva could be used in ways never approved by regulators, the lawsuit said.”
“This is about lives”
Under the terms of the False Claims Act, the federal government will receive $62.6 million of the settlement, State Medicaid programs will get $4.4 million and Shields and his lawyers will share the remaining $10 million.
“This is about lives,” said whistleblower Shields, a former Army helicopter pilot. “”Hopefully this will have a lasting effect and improve cancer care.”
From a Justice Department statement:
“Pharmaceutical companies have a responsibility to provide accurate information to patients and health care providers about their prescription drugs. The Department of Justice will hold these companies accountable that mislead the public about the efficacy of the products.”
Unfortunately, drug manufacturers have a history of ignoring their “responsibility” to patients and the healthcare industry – there have been numerous cases of fraudulent marketing, falsified study results and bribery on the part of drug makers.
Profits vs. people
Big Pharma has shown that it will stop at nothing in the pursuit of profits. It’s clear that the “cancer industry” has no interest in curing anyone – human lives and ethics are far less important than dollars to these greedy and soulless criminals.
The profits raked in by Big Pharma are absolutely staggering. It’s important to understand what kind of money we’re actually talking about.
“Big Pharma’s top eleven corporations generated net profits in just one decade from 2003 to 2012 of nearly three quarters of a trillion dollars – that’s just net profit alone. The net profit for 2012 amongst those top eleven amounted to $85 billion in just that one year.”
If it weren’t for the courage of whistleblowers like Brian Shields, Big Pharma would simply continue its corrupt practices virtually unchecked – after all, the FDA and other regulatory agencies have been bought out by the drug industry and do little to protect the public from the fraudulent marketing of useless and dangerous medications.
If enough people come forward and speak out, as Shields did, we might begin to see changes in the way Big Pharma conducts business – but don’t hold your breath…
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