Tuesday 12 December 2017

Learn lessons of Elan scandal

NINE years ago, four companies made up the vast bulk of the value of the Irish Stock Exchange; Elan, Allied Irish, Bank of Ireland and CRH. Today, only CRH has a significant market value and the other three have fallen by the wayside, suffering share price collapses of around 95pc.

The banks' reckless lending will undoubtedly cost many lives as healthcare spending is slashed in the years ahead, but for sheer evil it is hard to beat Elan. The decision by the drug company to encourage doctors to put its anti-epilepsy drug into apple sauce so that children, for whom the drug was not approved, would consume it, is deeply disturbing. The fact that Ireland's largest pharmaceutical company also peddled the drug as a cure for all sorts of ailments for which it was not approved, is even worse.

There are many losers in this sorry tale; the adults and children who used Zonegran without proper oversight, the American doctors who allowed themselves to be persuaded to prescribe the drug with trips to Bermuda and Florida, the Irish regulators who took no action despite Elan's base here, the pension funds who invested in the company despite the strong smell that has emanated from Elan for years and, of course, the executives inside Elan who were responsible.

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