Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline agreed to pay $750 million to settle criminal and civil complaints that for years the company knowingly sold contaminated baby ointment and other products. The settlement comes as a result of a whistleblower suit, placing it in line with a growing number of such cases. But this settlement represents the highest whistleblower award yet in a health care fraud case.
Cheryl Eckard, quality manager for the company, claimed she warned Glaxo of the problems with Avandia, Bactroban, Coreg, Paxil and Tagament. But rather than address her concerns and work toward making those products safe, they fired her. The problems all apparently stem from the manufacturing process plant located in Puerto Rico.
The settlement was announced by both the Department of Justice’s Civil Division and the United States attorney for Massachusetts. Their coordinated prosecution alleged the drug maker misled patients and defrauded federal and state governments that through Medicare and Medicaid, pay for much of health care.
Boiled down, the private industry that so many on the right insist will properly manage health care just effectively admitted to ripping of Americans and simultaneously selling them contaminated products. And it was the government that stepped in and forced the abuse to light. Making these kinds of protections less available to the American public is part and parcel of the Republican platform and for some reason people buy it.
It would be more understandable if the suits could be criticized as political creatures, but the allegations come from industry insiders–researchers and quality control professionals who knew what their companies were doing was wrong. And they affect drugs with proven problems and histories of being pushed through the approval process–drugs like Avandia for example.
Government is not good at everything, but at its most basic level, it is very good at providing for the health, safety and well-being of its constituents. As this latest settlement shows, the inherent perversity in having a health-care industry profit off illness is the perfect breeding ground for greed, fraud and corruption. Let’s remember that as we hear the growing chants to repeal health care reform.
photo courtesy of Pink Sherbert Photography via Flickr