USA Today recently had a disturbing article about the Medicare fraud involving the nation’s largest drugmakers.    The multinational companies have paid at least $8 billion in fines for repeatedly defrauding Medicare and Medicaid over the past decade.  They only remain in business because they hold a monopoly on life saving medications.  Government investigators can exclude these companies from providing medications to Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries as punishment for prior fraud, but that would leave beneficiaries without drugs patented through a particular company.

Pfizer alone has paid almost $3 billion in fines since 2002 and entered into three corporate integrity agreements with the Department of Health and Human Services aimed at preventing future fraud. Pfizer’s 2009 settlement was for improperly promoting the use of drugs for purposes other than those for which they were approved by the government.

Merck paid $1.6 billion in fines since 2008, Medicare and Justice Department records show, to resolve claims it was not paying proper rebates to the government.  Merck’s 2008 settlement involved claims the company paid illegal kickbacks to health care providers in exchange for prescribing its drugs.

Pharmaceutical companies altogether spent more than $200 million lobbying Congress in 2011, including $12 million spent by Pfizer. At least 12 pharmaceutical and medical device companies are lobbying specifically against a House bill, HR 675, that complements Grassley’s.

 

 

Drug-maker freebies can lead to harm for patients, a new report from the highly respected New England Journal of Medicine warns. Consumers have reason to be concerned about the study’s findings.

Gifts (bribes?) showered upon doctors by drug- and medical device-makers have become so pervasive that they are a standard part of every physician’s practice. 94 percent physicians have a  relationship with the drug industry, according to a study scheduled to be published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Consumers should care about such relationships because drug companies market the most expensive brand names; gift-giving influences prescribing behavior and therefore how much patients spend on prescriptions.

The study proves that many doctors do not follow the AMA voluntary guidelines. It notes, for example, that 35 percent of respondents accept reimbursement for continuing medical education or for travel, food or lodging for medical meetings.

A National Survey of Physician–Industry Relationships
E. G. Campbell and Others