Long Before the ACA Decision…UPDATED

Image credit: REUTERS/Toby Melville

Legal truths stranger than fiction have existed for some time. Cue example from Bloomberg Financial on news yesterday of  the settlement of “the largest health-care fraud case” in the history of these United States, against GlaxoSmithKline PLC,

Under federal law, while doctors are allowed to prescribe medications for unapproved uses, drug companies are barred from promoting such sales.

Not that the statutes in the Code of Federal Regulations stopped their sales force, or anything. So while global drug giant GSK will be paying $3 billion to the U.S. government, and various state governments, in fines and penalties (dare I call these “taxes?”) for it’s sins of marketing various drugs for unapproved uses, touting, for example

Wellbutrin, a depression medication, for unapproved uses including weight loss, sexual dysfunction and substance abuse. Some sales representatives referred to the drug as “the happy, horny, skinny pill,” according to the fact sheet.

the real interesting thing is that “doctors are allowed to prescribe medications for unapproved uses” at all. Who knew? I mean besides medical doctors, their attorneys, FDA, and the Justice Department?

Lest you concern yourself that this huge punitive fine will completely bankrupt Glaxo, note that shares in GSK rallied quite nicely yesterday. That’s because the biggest evil in the marketplace is perceived uncertainty, not highly questionable, commission dollar driven, ethics. Also, their latest Annual Report states that,

In 2011, we paid dividends of £3.4 billion and spent £2.2 billion on repurchasing shares.

Which is waay more than the $3 billion (at current exchange rates, $8.74 billion) they’re coughing up in criminal fines in the very near future. Not that it doesn’t hurt them. Who knows, it might even make them think twice before putting dollars before the lives of those whom their medicines *cough* benefit.

It’s just another reason why I don’t freak out over stuff that a) doesn’t make sense, b) that I don’t have any control over, especially when you consider c) many of us have eaten in Mobster owned restaurants in Las Vegas (Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City, etc.) without our even knowing it.

That’s why I, along with my good friend Qoheleth, like this song.  And though I pray the same prayer as Pete Townsend does here, it is one of the least of my prayers, for an obvious reason: we always get fooled again when we put our faith in man.

A better prayer is found in today’s Responsorial Psalm, for it recalls the Truth that no amount of political wrangling can ever eclipse,

R. (Mark 16:15) Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.
Praise the LORD, all you nations;
glorify him, all you peoples!
R. Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.
For steadfast is his kindness for us,
and the fidelity of the LORD endures forever.
R. Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.

Update: Back in May, Abbot Labs agreed to a settlement with the DOJ to pay $1.5 billion for a similar offense.

 

 

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