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Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

What do gifts to physicians buy? A Whole Forest

What do gifts to physicians buy? A Whole Forest

October 11, 2010

Forest Pharmaceuticals is the latest pharmaceutical company plead guilty to a criminal felony and pay millions to settle their case. According to the Department of Justice settlement made last month, Forest use marketing and gifts to drive sales of an unapproved drug, Levothroid, despite a 2003 warning letter from the FDA.

The FDA specifically instructed Forest to scale back sales by 30% until they received FDA approval, yet Forest had a sales increase of 128% in this time period. After receiving the warning letter they “directed employees…to work overtime until approximately 1:00 a.m. the following morning and…to continue shipping as much unapproved Levothroid as possible”.

Additionally, Forest promoted the off-label use of two anti-depressants-Lexapro and Celexa- in children. These products, not approved for use in children at the time, were aggressively marketed to physicians in the form of gifts such as “tickets to Cardinals and Boston Red Sox games, restaurant gift certificates, subsidies for physician office parties, deep-sea fishing trips, Broadway theater tickets, and other forms of lavish entertainment for physicians and their spouses.” These gifts equaled over $240,000 per sales agent to encourage doctors to prescribe Lexapro and Celexa.

This case is just one more example of why drug companies should not be permitted to win doctors over with gifts and dinners and instead should let the facts speak for themselves.
-Marie Vitello