Pharmaceutical medications have changed the world. Think about it: Less than 100 years ago, people regularly died of pneumonia because antibiotics weren’t available as a treatment.
But what happens when drug companies decide that they are willing to push profits ahead of patient safety? Well, Lauren Stevens of Durham, North Carolina, just discovered at least one of the consequences. Ms. Stevens has been charged by the Department of Justice with obstructing justice and making false statements in an effort to conceal illegal promotion of a company drug.
According to an article on WRAL.com:
The Department of Justice alleges that in 2002, Lauren Stevens of Durham, N.C., signed several letters to the Food and Drug Administration denying that her company had promoted an antidepressant drug for unapproved uses. But Stevens knew that the company had paid numerous physicians to give talks touting unapproved uses of the drug, including weight loss, according to the indictment filed Monday in the U.S. District Court of Maryland.
A spokeswoman for GlaxoSmithKline PLC [GSK] confirmed Stevens worked as a vice president in the company’s legal department, but has since retired. The spokeswoman also confirmed that the drug — which was not named in the indictment — is Wellbutrin, a former blockbuster-selling product.
Drug companies are prohibited from promoting drugs for uses not approved by the FDA.
Excellent. This is a positive step in helping to protect patient rights. Anyone who turns on a television virtually any time, any day, will get blasted with direct-to-consumer drug ads. They are seductive–it’s comforting to know that we can feel better, mentally or physically, if we just take a pill.
But behind all those ads is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is given the responsibility of making sure that drugs are safe and consumers are not deceived. Even if consumers are “sold” a drug that appears attractive and helpful, we especially need doctors to remain an unbiased source of pharmaceutical information.
What GSK and lawyer Lauren Stevens did was circumvent the process designed to protect you and me. They valued profits over patients’ safety and consumers’ rights. This is reprehensible. Will this one case stop drug companies from over-selling their drugs their deceiving federal agencies? Probably not. But we hope that this episode will spark stricter regulations on pharmaceutical promotions. It’s in all our interests.
To read the full story, click here: WRAL.com
To learn more about drug injuries, click here: HensonFuerst Drug Injury page