Being Fined for Illegal Acts All A Part of Doing Business in the Pharmaceutical Industry
No sooner does the news break that pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline deliberately withheld critical data which revealed that their diabetes drug Avandia significantly increased the risk of heart attacks amongst its largest users – senior citizens, today we received word that the company is paying $750 million to settle criminal and civil complaints linked to the fact that they had knowingly sold contaminated baby ointment and an ineffective antidepressant to an unsuspecting and trusting public.
In addition to the term “snake oil sales,” the other thought that immediately came to mind was the realization that what to the public is a significant fine, is actually an acceptable cost of doing business for pharmaceutical companies. Think about it for a moment, as we review the number of posts over the last year in just this blog alone regarding big pharma misbehavior:
October 27th, 2010: Topiramate: A Jack Of All Trade Drug, But Effective Treatment For None?
September 24th, 2010: Avandia Scandal Could Almost Turn a Republican Into a Democrat
In the past I have drawn a distinct and significant difference between the commercialization of a product versus commoditization. With the former, there is an evolution from concept to design to production and testing before a product that serves the greater interests of the public is made available for sale. Generating revenue through this process is not only warranted, but should be encouraged.
With the latter, there is a cheapening of the process in which voluminous throughput is the agenda driving the model. Like the over-prescribing of anti-psychotic drugs to children as young as 3 years old, or knowingly pushing out tainted baby ointments or ineffective medicines, the bottom line is profitability over servicing humanity.
Somewhere along the road, an increasing number of senior executives . . . that’s right, people run these companies and not the other way around so it isn’t a faceless corporation committing these despicable acts, but the men and women who oversee them, lost sight of the bigger, more balanced picture.
Until these people are held truly accountable in a meaningful way that serves as a true deterrent and not like the penalty leveled against Countrywide’s former CEO Angelo Mozilo, then civil and criminal liability even at $750 million, will be nothing more than a normal cost of doing business.