I was glad to see that the New York Times‘ reporters covering GlaxoSmithKline’s $3 billion settlement tipped their hat to former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. After all, it was his crew and specifically a pioneering attorney by the name of Rose Firestein who dreamed up the idea of suing Glaxo for consumer fraud, paving the way for Glaxo’s record-breaking $3 billion take-down.
I told the story of how Rose and her colleagues at the New York AG’s office first brought the second largest drug company in the world to heel in Side Effects. But who knew that other state and federal prosecutors would pay such close attention to Rose’s novel interpretation of applying consumer fraud statutes to the deceptive marketing of Paxil for off-label use in children?
It was Rose Firestein who unearthed the tactics that federal prosecutors now claim GlaxoSmithKline used to deceive American families about Paxil. It was she who first noticed that an article, published in a prominent medical journal and used by Glaxo to market Paxil as safe and effective in children actually showed the opposite — that Paxil not only didn’t work in children but was more likely than a sugar pill to make them suicidal. As I and others have revealed (in books and blogs), that journal article actually misrepresented data from a clinical trial. Here’s what the Times today says about it:
In the case of Paxil, prosecutors claim GlaxoSmithKline employed several tactics aimed at promoting the use of the drug in children, including helping to publish a medical journal article that misreported data from a clinical trial.
Over the past three or four years, one major pharm company after another — Pfizer, Abbott, Johnson & Johnson, Forest Labs, Eli Lilly, Astrazeneca and now GlaxoSmithKline — has been forced to pay record-breaking fines for the similarly deceptive and fraudulent marketing of their off-label drugs (Neurotonin, Risperdal, Celexa, Seroquel, Zoloft, Zyprexa, Wellbutrin). To think that all of these successful prosecutions started with a brainstorm that Rose Firestein had while taking a shower one cold February morning in 2004.
I hope that the state and federal prosecutors who are now raking in the dough for their financially strapped governments give Rose and her colleagues at the New York AG’s office their due. I also hope that Andrew Witty, the CEO of GlaxoSmithKline, is speaking the truth when he says that these fraudulent research and marketing practices are a thing of the past. If only…