Judge approves GlaxoSmithKline’s $3 billion settlement with DOJ.

In continuing coverage, the AP (7/6) reports from Boston, “A federal judge on Thursday approved an agreement by British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline to pay $3 billion for criminal and civil violations involving 10 drugs, the largest health care fraud settlement in US history.” The AP adds, “The amount of money involved led US District Judge Rya Zobel to remark in court that she was having trouble keeping track of the numbers. GlaxoSmithKline pleaded guilty to promoting the popular antidepressants Paxil and Wellbutrin for unapproved uses.”

The Boston Herald (7/6, Szaniszlo) reports, “The guilty pleas were part of the nation’s largest-ever health-care fraud settlement, under which GSK agreed to pay $3 billion, including more than $35 million to the Massachusetts Medicaid program, to resolve allegations that the company engaged in illegal schemes related to the marketing and pricing of some of the drugs that it manufactures. Geoffrey E. Hobart, the defendant’s attorney, said GSK was not agreeing to every allegation the government made, but was agreeing to facts sufficient to reach a plea deal. Assistant US Attorney Sara Bloom said the government agreed to the settlement because the company no longer incentivizes its sales representatives based on sales alone and has its research driven by GSK’s research arm rather than its marketing arm.”

Bloomberg News (7/6, Fisk) reports, “The settlement also requires Glaxo to abolish incentive compensation for its sales force and publish all GSK human research studies, not just those with positive outcomes for the company’s drugs, the DOJ said. ‘With these groundbreaking changes, GSK has committed to putting patients before profits; science before sales,’ Carmen Ortiz, US attorney for the District of Massachusetts, said in a statement.”

In op-ed commentary in the Christian Science Monitor (7/6), Robert Reich writes that the $3 billion settlement “may sound like a lot of money, but during these years Glaxo made $27.5 billion on these three antidepressants alone, according to IMS Health, a data research firm — so the penalty could almost be considered a cost of doing business.” Reich adds, “The Department says the prosecutions are well worth the effort,” but “what’s the point if the fines are small relative to the profits, if the wrong people are feeling the financial pinch, and if no executive is held accountable?”