Articles Posted in Corporate Greed

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Prescription MedicationsI have to say, there are times I just don’t want to hear any more alarming news. But recently I stumbled upon a disturbing database of payments made by drug and medical device manufacturers to physicians. It can be horrifying to imagine that your doctor or surgeon is getting huge amounts of money from drug companies or device makers, for any reason.  Now imagine that the payments were hundreds of thousands of dollars, or millions. It just doesn’t pass the smell test. Think about it: if a surgeon gets $250,000.00 per year from a medical device manufacturer, do you think the surgeon is likely going to “choose” to implant devices made by the fee-paying medical device manufacturer?

ProPublica is the nonprofit organization who maintains the database. Recently nonprofit organization updated its database of doctors across the country who were paid by medical device manufacturers or drug makers in 2015. ProPublica also compiled statistics on the amount of money drug companies spent promoting certain prescription medications and medical devices. The numbers are staggering. Let’s take a look at a few of the prescription medications on ProPublica’s list that I’ve written about on this site:

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On July 1, 2016 a jury in Philadelphia sent a very loud and angry message to Johnson & Johnson. After a lengthy trial, the jury awarded a young boy who grew breasts after taking the drug Risperdal a staggering $70,000,000.00. This verdict is far and away the largest money judgment awarded (yet) to a victim of the drug Risperdal. As one of the attorneys representing the disfigured child stated, “this verdict is a game-changer.” I think he is right.

But let’s back up.

What is Risperdal?

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Genentech SettlementYou see ads for them all the time. Supplements, creams and pills that will help you lose weight, clear up your skin, improve your sex life or maybe do all of these things at the same time. Whether they’re in late night cable TV infomercials or spam email, you might think this kind of medical scam is perpetrated by small time operators making a fast buck. But scams can also be done by multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical companies (but in much more sophisticated ways), sometimes with potentially deadly results.

California based Genentech and its marketing partner OSI Pharmaceuticals will pay $67 million to settle claims that they misled doctors into prescribing a drug to lung cancer patients that the defendants knew would not work. Due to this highly corporate hucksterism some of these patients may have precious time robbed from them, dying earlier than they would have if they had taken more effective drugs. These allegations are in the settled lawsuit filed by a former Genentech employee. Federal prosecutors joined the lawsuit, reports the Los Angeles Times.

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Profits can lead corporations to take dangerous risks. In the medical device industry, it can mean that a company decides to rush a product onto market without proper clinical testing. Or it could mean the company goes too far in promoting a product for “off-label use.” Sometimes, the pursuit of corporate profits turns into a crime.

Acclarent Medical Device Criminal TrialThere is an unsettling criminal case being tried in Massachusetts federal court this week. Two executives of a company called Acclarent are being prosecuted for fraud in the marketing of a medical device known as “Stratus.” The Stratus was a device that was supposed to relieve symptoms of sinusitis using saline. It consisted of a tube with a balloon attached to a sharp pin. The device would be implanted in the patient’s sinus, where it would be left in place for two weeks. It was reported to work as similar devices which created space in the sinus area using saline, which allowed patients to breathe easier. But according to testimony in the criminal trial, Acclarent had other intentions for the Stratus. Instead of using saline, the Stratus was intended to deliver “Kenalog,” a steroid found in medications like Nasacourt.

But I should back up.

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Corporate Responsibility For Medical Devices and Drugs

I don’t drink the Kool-Aid. I distrust simple answers, group-think, zealotry. I can’t stand when people make sweeping generalizations about the absolute evil of one side and the unconditional good of the other side. I don’t usually spend much time with plaintiffs’ attorneys who think every corporate decision is an act of violence and malfeasance. I am convinced there are two sides to every story (even if, often, one side of the story is weaker).

Medical Devices and Drugs Have Saved Many Lives

So it is with my law practice. I do not believe major companies are evil, that they are out to hurt people, that all the conspiracy theories are true. I am convinced the life-cycle of a medical device or drug begins with a beautiful idea: to develop a product that will save lives, that will make people more active, that will help people and not hurt them. In fact, virtually all medical devices or drugs are first developed by one or a few smart people attempting a solution to a pressing health problem.

And these medical devices and drugs have saved lives. And as a society we have to create an environment where doctors and scientists and corporations have the freedom and the opportunity to build new medical devices and new drugs to solve vexing health problems.

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Abraham Lincoln had this to say about frivolous lawsuits: “Never stir up litigation.  A worse man can scarcely be found than one who does this.”  I agree.

I agree with Lincoln that we should never “stir up” litigation, for many reasons, the main one being that “creating” litigation is simply the wrong thing to do, it is harmful to the client, and it creates ill-will and distrust in the world and within the legal profession.  But I also agree with Lincoln for completely selfish reasons: it does not lead to good results and it can easily destroy a person’s law practice.  Reports of the filing of frivolous lawsuits are greatly exaggerated.

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Risperdal: The Tragic Consequences of Aggressive Drug Marketing
I need to pause for a moment in discussing artificial hip litigation and draw your attention to a shocking series of articles on the Johnson & Johnson drug, Risperdal.  Steven Brill has written a compelling series titled America’s Most Admired LawbreakerBrill makes the argument that Johnson & Johnson pushed the prescription drug Risperdal onto the elderly and children, for all manner of unapproved uses, with devastating results.  The series began yesterday on Huffington Post and can be found here.

Risperdal is an anti-psychotic drug that was first approved for use in 1993 to manage the symptoms of schizophrenia.  In the years that followed, Johnson & Johnson pressed for FDA approval to treat other conditions, such as bipolar disorder and autism, and to permit use in children.  More recently, Risperdal has been prescribed for adults and children to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression.  Treating these conditions using Risperdal is considered “off label” use, which is the use of a drug in a manner unapproved by the FDA.  Off-label use could be using the drug to treat a condition which is not authorized by the FDA, or prescribing the drug to an unapproved age group.

Tragically, Risperdal has had horrific side effects in some cases, particularly in children.  Among other symptoms, Risperdal can cause the growth of breasts in male children, a condition known as gynecomastia.

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Medical Funding Can Reduce Your Product Liability Settlement Proceeds
I received a court filing from the Depuy ASR multidistrict litigation last week, and it reminded me to caution you about the serious financial threat you can face when dealing with artificial hip failures and hip litigation (and of course, other medical device failures like artificial knees and transvaginal mesh). Sadly, this threat comes from third-party companies that appear legitimate, even helpful, but mainly have a naked profit motive for getting involved in your case. These companies often cash in unfairly from all the suffering you endured from you failed artificial hip or failed medical device.

What is Medical Funding?

Think of it as a lawsuit loan, or a loan against your future settlement recovery.  Medical Funding is a medical care financial assistance “service,” and occurs when a third-party company offers to pay the medical bills of a person who is injured by the negligence of others. This could be a car crash case, a failed medical device like a hip, or any other situation where the negligence of someone else caused the injury. If you accept the offer, the company will pay the medical care provider—the surgeon, the hospital, etc.—a percentage of the provider’s billed charges, but usually more than the provider would have been paid by private health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid. The company then receives an “assignment” from the medical provider that allows the company (potentially) to receive the full amount of the billed charges, which are often much higher than what the company paid for the medical care and higher than what private insurance would have paid. The third-party company will then file a medical expense “lien” on the proceeds of the person’s settlement or jury award.