It’s time for Big Pharma companies that were caught lying to the public to pay up.
ConsumerShield’s report, “The Pharmaceutical Industry: Balancing Profits, Penalties, and Public Safety,” was published on Oct. 17, and it shows that the lion’s share of violations involve synthetic opioids that clearly cause dependence and are powerful enough to stop breathing.
London Loves Business reports that the study shows that since 2010, the pharmaceutical industry has incurred $82.8 billion in penalties during over 500 instances of recorded violations due to drug and medical device safety non-observance, unapproved promotion of medical products, breaches of the False Claims Act, and other violations.
The biggest culprit—Johnson & Johnson—clocked in with over 45 violation records during the study period, leading to a total of $24.5 billion in penalties. Johnson & Johnson paid $18 billion USD in penalties over the past five years in opioid and talc cases alone. Next is Teva Pharmaceuticals with penalties of $8.5 billion, AbbVie with penalties of $7.1 billion, GSK plc with penalties of $5.6 billion, and Pfizer with penalties of $3.2 billion.
The report also lists significant settlements, with one case standing out: the Purdue Pharma case, resulting in an order to pay $8.3 billion. On Oct. 21, 2020, the Department of Justice announced a massive fine culminating its criminal and civil investigations into the opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma, and a civil resolution of its civil investigation into individual shareholders from the Sackler family.
Purdue and the Sacklers continued to market OxyContin and opioid products to over 100 health care providers despite the company knowing there was good reason to believe they were diverting opioids and reporting misleading information to the DEA to boost Purdue’s manufacturing quotas.
Hundreds of thousands of people overdosed and died in the process. Nearly 88% of opioid-involved overdose deaths involved synthetic opioids, and opioids were the cause of 80,411 overdose deaths in 2021—75.4% of all drug overdose deaths, the CDC reported in 2021 when overdoses peaked. Compare that to heroin overdoses, which caused just 9,000 overdoses in 2021 unless they were mixed with opioids. Almost ten times more OD’d on synthetic opioids.
“The abuse and diversion of prescription opioids has contributed to a national tragedy of addiction and deaths, in addition to those caused by illicit street opioids,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen. “With criminal guilty pleas, a federal settlement of more than $8 billion, and the dissolution of a company and repurposing its assets entirely for the public’s benefit, the resolution in today’s announcement re-affirms that the Department of Justice will not relent in its multi-pronged efforts to combat the opioids crisis.”
Most of us know about the ravages of the opioid epidemic, but what’s the deal with talc? Pharmaceuticals can kill you in other ways. Talcum powder lawsuits claim consumers were diagnosed with cancer after using talc-based Johnson & Johnson baby powder.
A Solemn Warning
The ConsumerShield report kicks off with a solemn warning:
“It is with a sense of urgency and responsibility that we delve deep into the prevailing paradigms of the pharma industry,” the report reads. “Our investigation is geared towards understanding whether the soaring profits are inadvertently overshadowing the paramount need for consumer safety, ethical promotions, and pioneering research initiatives.
“The stark discrepancy between R&D investments and marketing expenditures, coupled with the persistence of unethical practices despite soaring penalties, necessitates a comprehensive examination of the industry’s commitment to ethical practices and consumer well-being.”
ConsumerShield representatives say that what the data shows is disturbing.
“The juxtaposition of soaring revenues and escalating penalties is alarming,” ConsumerShield Senior Analyst Jane Doe told London Loves Business. “But what’s even more disturbing is the obvious disparity between companies’ spending on research and development (R&D) and their enormous marketing budgets.”
The False Claims Act is the federal government’s primary litigation tool in combating fraud against the government, and part of that includes consumer protections.
“Pharmaceutical companies that have engaged in illegal off-label marketing or promotion of their drugs have paid the Government hundreds of millions of dollars as a result of Federal False Claims Act cases, often times brought by pharmaceutical sales representatives, sales managers, compliance officers, other pharmaceutical company employees, physicians, nurses and/or employees of hospitals or physician practices,” the False Claims Act Pharmaceutical Fraud summary reads.
The report shows the repercussions of marketing opioids despite receiving warnings about its enormous deadly impact, notwithstanding the people who actually need opioids to deal with high levels of pain.