Thursday, September 30, 2010

Too Many Lawsuits? With Pharma Giant Novartis, Apparently There's Not Enough...

Die hard "tort reformers--" big business, The Chamber of Commerce, and the insurance industry--are famous for constantly pushing for lawsuit limits and "reforms" as being "good for the economy." Of course, what they continually ignore is that legitimate lawsuits often result in substantial benefit to the public.

Take the recent shenanigans of pharmaceutical giant, Novartis. For SEVEN YEARS, Novartis was paying doctors illegal kickbacks, disguised as "speaking fees," to persuade doctors to promote untested and FDA unapproved uses of Trilepetal, an anti-seizure medication. Turns out, doctors were prescribing Trilepetal for all kinds of maladies, like bipolar disorder and neuropathic pain, according to this article.

Bottom line: we as consumers were guinea pigs, ingesting drugs for untested conditions in a giant scheme to promote this drug. It took some whistleblowers to expose this fraud, and a massive lawsuit to make Novartis accountable. The settlement? A mere $422 million that will be reimbursed to the federal and state governments, like Ohio, who covered payments for Trilepetal prescriptions under Medicaid. Ohio's share? $12.5 million pumped back in the Medicaid coffers.

A classic example of institutional greed run amok, patient safety be damned, and a lawsuit that righted the ship and returned money to government programs.

I know it's a shock to The Chamber Of Commerce that companies like this are capable of wrongdoing in a race to improve stock shares and the bottom line, but it does happen (see, BP, tainted egg recall, etc). And when it does, the last thing we need is to water down one of the main weapons in the societal arsenal for ensuring that corporate America is held to the same principles of "personal responsibility" and "accountability" that polticians demand of us as individuals. That weapon is a lawsuit.

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