Last week, the street.com -a leading online provider of financial news, commentary, analysis, ratings, business and investment content- took a major swipe at Big Pharma, in general, and Abbott, in particular. Under the headline ‘Abbott Helps Big Pharma Look Even Worse’ author Vince Crew, lambasts the drugmaker for its past marketing practices and warns that unless Pharma adheres to a zero tolerance policy for illegal practices, the industry’s reputation will be doomed forever. Here’s a verbatim copy of what he had to say – “On May 7, Abbott reached an agreement with the federal and nearly all state governments to pay $1.6 billion in connection with its illegal marketing of the anti-seizure drug Depakote.
Someone(s) at Abbott thought it a good idea, according to the Justice Department confirmation, to have a “specialized sales force” market Depakote in nursing homes to dementia patients, even though there was no evidence that it was safe and effective for such use. By the way, in the spirit of “someone will always tell,” several employees blew the whistle on the pharma behemoth. No doubt the settlement has caused Abbott investors, stakeholders, competitors and the industry in general, to pause. Before you think Abbott is doomed because of a reprehensible thing like this, 11 days following this settlement, Abbott Laboratories reported better-than-expected earnings as sales surged on its injectable arthritis drug, Humira. So, no tears for Abbott, unless they regard ongoing settlements as business as usual and don’t actively adhere to a zero tolerance policy for illegal practices. In that case, we should weep for the industry as a whole. Time will tell.”
Abbott, has a very different story to tell. In their mia culpa press release regarding the settlement, Laura J Schumacher, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary says, “The company takes its responsibilities to patients and healthcare providers seriously and has established robust compliance programs to ensure its marketing programs meet the needs of health care providers and legal requirements.” As Mr. Crew says, time will indeed tell. However, everyone would do well to heed the warning. According to Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, “Today’s settlement shows further evidence of our deep commitment to public health and our determination to hold accountable those who commit fraud. We are resolute in stopping this type of activity and today’s settlement sends a strong message to other companies.”
In the meantime, if any pharmaceutical companies are looking for help to ensure that their marketing practices are compliant, please remember SRxA is here to help.