Pharmaceutical companies in the United States have grown to preposterous heights, as the amounts of money they generate yearly are extremely high. And while these companies have gotten rich from pushing their prescription drugs to people, they have also been known to do some shoddy things to say the least. The US government has long fought health care fraud and has collected huge settlements in the years. The companies mentioned in the following list of ten have been part of the biggest prescription drug lawsuits in United States history, as provided by the U.S. Department of Justice.
In 2010, the British company GlaxoSmithKline was fined a hefty sum of 750 million USD. The charges stemmed from the giant selling contaminated products like baby oils, among copious amounts of other products. With everything added up, GlaxoSmithKline knowingly produced twenty products in a contaminated and bacteria-laced plant in Puerto Rico.
The drugs contaminated supposedly treated many different maladies in the body, from the ointment Bactroban, to the heart drug Coreg, many were named in the lawsuit. Also included in the criminal and civil complaints are Tagamet, Avandia, Kytril and Paxil. The federal laws violated as part of the False Claims Act totaled an extremely high number of 750 million dollars on October 26, 2010, but it certainly isn’t the highest in the history of the United States.
In December of 2012, company giant Amgen pleaded guilty to illegally marketing a drug for unapproved uses. Aranesp, the drug in question, was used by those suffering from anemia. Prosecutors charged that Aranesp was marketed to cancer patients with aneenia, not receiving chemotherapy, even though the drug was only approved to those receiving chemotherapy. While the company profited from off-label promotion at the risk of patients, they have settled to pay 762 million USD. The 762 million dollars consists of 136 million dollars in criminal fines, forfeit 14 million and 612 million to civil litigation.
8. Tap Pharmaceutical Products
Coming in at number 8 on the countdown is a joint venture between drug makers Abbott Laboratories and Takeda Chemical Industries. Tap Pharmaceutical Products agreed to pay 875 million dollars on October 4, 2001, in a settlement in which it manipulated Medicaid and Medicare programs. The health care fraud saw representatives of TAP give free samples of Lupron, a drug used in the treatment of prostate cancer, to doctors, followed by assisting them in getting free kickbacks from the government at plenty of money per dose. The conspiracy cost those involved big money, albeit number 8 on the list of the highest prescription drug settlements in the United States.
On November 22, 2011, Merck agreed to a settlement of 950 million dollars over the drug called Vioxx. The company illegally promoted the drug, that in 2004 was pulled off the market due to proof that it increased the risk in heart attacks for those who consumed it.
The company admitted to promoting the drug to treat rheumatoid arthritis before it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in treating that condition. This settlement also resolved allegations in which the company admitted to falsifying claims about heart safety and the relationship to the drug.
6. Johnson & Johnson
Stepping foot in the billion dollar range, the massive business of Johnson & Johnson agreed to settle for a whopping sum of 1.2 billion dollars in a pharmacuetical drug case. In April of 2012. a judge in Arkansas ordered the fine to the company after it became known that the company was deceptive in marketing Risperdal, a drug related to the treatment of psychosis. This is just one of many lawsuits Johnson & Johnson has faced because of Risperdal, and not the only one that makes the top ten highest drug lawsuit settlements in the United States.
5. Eli Lilly
On Thursday, January 15, 2009, the Indianapolis-based company Eli Lilly agreed to settle civil suits and the criminal investigation of them illegally promoting a drug. The drug in question, another anti-psychotic medication called Zyprexa, was marketed for uses that were not approved. The off-label promotion by Eli Lilly is one of many cases of illegal promotion by enormous pharmaceutical companies.
4. Abbott Laboratories
Coming in at number 4 is Abbott Laboratories, whom agreed to settle on May 7, 2012. The global health care company agreed to pay 1.5 billion dollars to settle criminal and civil investigation regarding the illegal promotion of the drug Depakote. The company illegally pushed the drug for treatment in patients with dementia and schizophrenia, despite it not being approved for treatment in those conditions.
3. Johnson & Johnson
Cracking the list for a second time is Johnson & Johnson for penalties involving the aforementioned drug Risperdal, as well as Invega and Natrecor. The settlement made on Monday, November 4, 2013, resolved civil and criminal allegation resolving illegal promotion of he drugs. Also included in the settlement were kickbacks rewarded to doctors who prescribed the drugs. This resolution, one of the biggest in US history, saw criminal fines and forfeiture total $485 million alone, with civil settlements combined with the federal government and states totaling $1.72 billion. The total number of settlements made was 2.2 billion dollars.
The pharmaceutical company out of New York settled for an incredibly high amount of 2.3 billion USD to resolve criminal and civil liability regarding the illegal promotion of certain drugs. From the United States Department of Justice, the company paid the money “to resolve allegations under the civil False Claims Act that the company illegally promoted four drugs – Bextra; Geodon, an anti-psychotic drug; Zyvox, an antibiotic; and Lyrica, an anti-epileptic drug – and caused false claims to be submitted to government health care programs for uses that were not medically accepted indications and therefore not covered by those programs.”
In the largest settlement involving the United States Department of Justice and a pharmaceutical company, the British company also reaches the top ten for a second time. GlaxoSmithKline agreed to settle for 3 billion dollars regarding criminal charges on July 2, 2012. The money resolved issues regarding the company’s criminal and civil liability regarding the illegal promotion of prescription drugs, and failure to report certain safety issues. The company admitted to misbranding Paxil to depression patients under the age of 18, and failing to disclose safety concerns over Avandia, a drug related to diabetes. Wellbutrin, a drug used for anti-depression was also listed in the historical settlement.
While today’s world continues to see pharmaceutical companies grow to giant levels, so too can one expect this list to change, as settlements are always in the works when it comes to massive amounts of money. We expect the US Department of Justice to continue to receive plenty of awards, judgments and settlements like the ten listed above.