More people need to be on prescription drugs than ever before. As the population ages and people’s conditions become more difficult to manage there will be an increased need for safe, reliable and effective drugs. However in recent years there has been a flood of lawsuits against major drug companies for hiding information about unsafe drugs as well as committing other fraudulent practices. Yet there has been little to nothing that stops them from continuing to do this. Some wonder how it is possible for this situation to continue unabated.
How Does Big Pharma Get Away With Fraud?
- Lawsuits End in Settlements
This avoids negative publicity by having the matter settled out of court and the drug companies write off these settlements as a cost of doing business. What ends up happening is that because the drugs are so expensive and in such high demand, pharmaceutical companies can sell as much of a drug as they want even if they know it is unsafe. By the time anyone figures it out and starts to sue, the companies have made millions or billions of dollars and don’t mind having to pay some of this profit in settlements to the hurt consumers. This pattern is repeated over and over and demonstrates that Big Pharma has no regard for the patients it claims to want to help. They are only concerned with lining their own pockets and if some people get hurt or even die in the process then so be it.
- Generic Drugs Cannot be Found Liable for Damages
If someone is hurt from complications due to using generic drugs they have no legal recourse to pursue a claim. Since over 80 percent of the drugs on the market are generic, this leaves all but a few consumers with even the legal option to retaliate against a drug company.
- The FDA Does Not Consider Patient Safety a High Priority
The FDA approves 96 percent of all new drugs that are created. There is no way that there are no problems with such a high percentage of new drugs. The FDA is in bed with the pharmaceutical companies because both industries feed off of one another. The FDA gets more funding and publicity by bringing new drugs to the market and Big Pharma gets more money by having their drugs approved. It is essentially a corrupt system where the group that is supposed to be safeguarding the public has no financial incentive to do so. And the group producing the drugs therefore has no motivation to keep the public safe.
Top 5 Drug Companies Prosecuted for Fraud in Recent Years
5 – Bayer
The birth control drugs Yaz and Yasmin were marketed as being more effective than other birth control methods. They were also said to provide the added benefits of reducing acne and severe menstrual pain. Instead many users experienced the extremely dangerous side effect of having blood clots. These blood clots increased stroke risk and are life threatening if not treated properly. What is particularly devious about this instance of Big Pharma fraud is that all oral contraceptives have a tendency to increase acne and bloating. So to say that these symptoms will be reduced by taking Yaz was particularly misleading. In total Bayer settled out of court for the sum of $1.4 billion for the damage done to those affected.
4 – Johnson and Johnson
The blood thinning drug Xarelto has been linked to major bleeding and has resulted in at least 65 deaths according to recent court documents. Since the drug has no known antidote this made it especially dangerous and essentially gave anyone with major bleeding while on the drug a death sentence even if they received immediate medical attention. They also withheld information from the public on the disturbing tendency of the antipsychotic drug Risperdal to grow female breasts in male patients. Not surprisingly as outrage mounted this drug was quickly targeted for lawsuits as well. In total, Johnson and Johnson has been required to pay back $2.2 billion in 2013 in order to resolve criminal and civil investigations.
3 – Takeda
Takeda is a Japanese drug company responsible for the manufacture of Actos, a diabetes treatment. While marketed to help reduce the need for insulin and as a way to lower a patient’s A1C, the pharmaceutical giant neglected to mention the increased risk of developing cancer while on the drug. In 2015 the company stopped a trial midway and settled out of court with two plaintiffs who had developed bladder cancer as a result of taking Actos. Takeda has agreed to pay out $2.3 billion in settlements for all of the others who have been negatively affected.
2 – Merck
Merck was forced to pull Vioxx from the shelves in 2004 when it was discovered through clinical trials that it doubled the risk of stroke, heart attack, and death. They have awarded over $4.85 billion to plaintiffs since 2008. While it may seem strange that such a dangerous drug could slip past the watchful eye of regulators, this is par for the course when it comes to the insufficient research that is done on these drugs.
1 – GlaxoSmithKline
The number one spot for Big Pharma fraud unquestionably goes to GlaxoSmithKline. They have the most drugs that have been investigated for negative health effects to date. They also have a track record for the most insidious types of fraud. This includes bribing doctors to prescribe their drugs, using fraudulent research papers to cover up dangerous side effects and allowing the FDA to continue to let them manufacture their products. They also have marketed their medicines for ailments that they were never approved to treat. GlaxoSmithKline paid $3 billion in settlements for their line of antidepressants alone including Paxil, Welbutrin, and Avandia. Since then the company has done little to mend its ways and seems to be undeterred as more and more profits from newly approved drugs continue to fill its bank account.
This is what lies at the heart of the Big Pharma fraud and why more needs to be done to stop companies from being able to mislead the public and get away with it by taking in more money than they pay out in settlements. As long as the pharmaceutical companies know they can get away with releasing unsafe drugs to the public they will continue to do so. It is up to the public to speak out against these crimes and to hold Big Pharma accountable for their actions. Citizens must go beyond waiting for more harmful effects to speak out. All of us must do our best to petition lawmakers to pass harsher regulations and penalties so that others do not suffer the same fate in the future.