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In a much publicized settlement, British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has agreed to pay $3 billion for criminal and civil violations in what the Associated Press in The Washington Post (July 5, 2012) has called, “the largest health care fraud settlement in U.S. history.”[1][1] Obviously, this is not the kind of press GSK desires. One wonders if $3 billion got its attention, or was merely a swat on the rear-end.

The mega-medicine producer promoted drugs for previously unapproved uses, including advertising Paxil for children, no matter that the antidepressant had not be approved for anyone under the age of 18, and Wellbutrin for attention deficit disorder, bipolar disorder, obesity and sexual dysfunction. Matt Kozar commented on ABC News that GSK was “marketing the medicines for off-label uses in order to boost profits” for the company.[2][2] The company also failed to report some safety problems with the diabetes drug, Avandia, including the fact it “sharply increased the risk of heart attacks and congestive heart failure” in some patients.[3][3] Since 2007, the FDA has added warnings to Avandia label to alert doctors to these risks.

In sum, “GSK plead guilty to three criminal charges for which it will pay $1 billion and another $2 billion will be paid in civil liabilities under the False Claims Act.”[4][4] CEO Sir Andrew Witty indicated that the “company has learned ‘from the mistakes that were made.’” One notes the typically British use of the passive form: Mistakes were made! One wonders if GSK really believes it made mistakes, or instead that these fines were merely a necessary cost of doing business.

[1][1] “GlaxoSmithKline Pleads Guilty to Health Fraud, Agrees to Pay Record $3B in Penalties,” Associated Press, The Washington Post, July 5, 2012, Washington, D.C.

[2][2] ABC News, Matt Kozar, Commentator, July 2, 2012.

[3][3] Op. Cit.

[4][4] “Pharma Giant GSK to Pay $3 Billion in Largest Ever Health Fraud Case,” Thomas, Pierre, ABC World News; July 2, 2012,

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