In our last post, we discussed a $3 billion settlement agreed to by drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline to settle allegations that it illegally marketed dangerous pharmaceuticals for unapproved, off-label uses. In addition to the antidepressant Paxil, authorities allege that the drugmaker mismarketed several other drugs, including Wellbutrin and Avandia.
Wellbutrin, also known as bupropion, is used to treat depression and seasonal affective disorder. Like Paxil, Wellbutrin is shown to increase the risk of suicide in patients under the age of 24. Wellbutrin is also known to cause confusion, violent behavior and panic attacks.
GSK allegedly marketed Wellbutrin to treat a variety of disorders such as sexual dysfunction and obesity, despite the drug's only approved use being the treatment of depression. This type of marketing is highly dangerous because all pharmaceutical drugs have side effects. Patients take pharmaceuticals because they believe that the potential benefits of a drug outweigh its possible risks. When a drug is marketed to treat ailments despite no evidence of its effectiveness, then patients are exposed to the full array of side effects for little to no potential benefit.
Federal prosecutors also allege that GSK failed to report data from studies indicating that its diabetes drug Avandia was highly dangerous to patients. Avandia, also called rosiglitazone, is used to treat Type 2 diabetes. Avandia's use has been restricted for several years after it was revealed that the drug can cause heart attacks.
"Whilst these originate in a different era for the company, they cannot and will not be ignored," GSK's CEO said of the company's illegal conduct. "On behalf of GSK, I want to express our regret and reiterate that we have learned from the mistakes that were made."
Source: The New York Times, "Glaxo Agrees to Pay $3 Billion in Fraud Settlement," Katie Thomas and Michael S. Schmidt, July 2, 2012