Healthcare firm fined $3bn over fraud and bribery
GlaxoSmithKline will pay $3bn (€2.3bn) in fines in the largest healthcare fraud settlement in US history for criminal and civil offences involving 10 drugs taken by millions of people.
The US Justice Department said Britain's largest drug maker would plead guilty to bribing doctors and promoting popular anti-depressants Paxil and Wellbutrin for unapproved uses.
The company -- which employs 1,600 people in Ireland -- will also plead guilty to failing to report to the US government for seven years some safety problems with diabetes drug Avandia, which was restricted in the US and banned in Europe after it was found in 2007 to sharply increase the risks of heart attacks and congestive heart failure.
The company also resolved accusations that it overcharged the government-funded Medicaid programme for some drugs and that it bribed doctors to prescribe several medicines including asthma drug Flovent and herpes medicine Valtrex.
In addition to the fine, Glaxo agreed to resolve civil liability for promoting Paxil, Wellbutrin, asthma drug Advair and two lesser-known drugs for unapproved uses.
Andrew Witty, Glaxo's chief executive, expressed regret yesterday and said the company had learned "from the mistakes that were made".
In recent years, the US government has cracked down on drug makers' aggressive tactics, which include marketing medicines for unapproved uses.
While doctors are allowed to prescribe medicines for any use, pharmaceutical firms cannot promote them in any way not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
"Let me be clear, we will not tolerate healthcare fraud," deputy attorney general James Cole said at a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington.
In addition to the $3bn penalty, Glaxo agreed to be monitored by the government for five years to ensure the company complies with marketing and other rules.
Glaxo is due to plead guilty to the criminal charges and have the settlement approved at a hearing tomorrow in US District Court in Boston, Massachusetts.