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Government lets fraudulent drug companies deal with Medicare January 19, 2011

Posted by Dreamhealer in Big Pharma.

Seven years ago, Lee Chartock, a psychiatrist in South Weymouth, Mass., got a visit from a drug saleswoman offering to pay his expenses to an “advisory meeting” in Boca Raton, Fla.

There, hucksters encouraged him and other attendees to prescribe the drug Zonegran, approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as one of several medications to treat epilepsy seizures in adults. That small market wasn’t growing. But physicians had been paid up to $1,250 to attend Florida sessions where they were encouraged to increase the drugs’ sales by prescribing it “off-label” as a diet pill, to treat mood disorders, and for epilepsy in children.

Back in Massachusetts, the saleswoman offered to pay him to give speeches on behalf of the drug’s maker, an Irish firm with R&D and other operations headquartered in South San Francisco called the Elan Corporation.

Chartock declined. Instead he filed a federal whistle-blower complaint describing an illegal marketing scheme by Elan to market Zonegran for “off-label” uses.

On Dec. 15, the Justice Department announced that Elan would pay criminal and civil penalties totaling more than $200 million. As part of a legal settlement, Elan signed a so-called corporate integrity agreement, designed to ensure it doesn’t repeat this kind of practice. For the next five years, it will employ a “compliance committee” and regularly report back to the government on whether employees are breaking the law. Read More…


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