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Trial of Big Pharma for "Sold Harmful Medicines"

FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT FEDERICO RAMPINI – NEW YORK – Don't accuse her of being venal. Cheryl Eckard, before becoming the "deep throat" of one of the biggest trials against Big Pharma, had tried to reform it from within, the pharmaceutical industry. As director responsible for quality control at the American subsidiary of GlaxoSmithKline, Eckard had already reported many irregularities in the production of drugs since 2001. In the face of her insistence, the reaction was a convict: instead of listening to her, in 2003 the English multinational decided to fire the overzealous manager. Mal blamed him. Glaxo had underestimated the powerful federal protections for "whistle-blowers", ie corporate employees who report fraud and scams by their employers. Thanks to that law, Eckard is now a wealthy woman. Very rich. 96 million Cheryl Eckard was the head of quality controls in the US branch of the guappo. She was kicked out for having reported many irregularities of dollars, to be precise, are the "percentage" due to her on the maximum fine imposed on Glaxo. The multinational has negotiated with the Justice Department, to avoid a trial that could cost it even more expensive. He agreed to pay a total of 750 million, including fines and compensation. This is the price for not wanting to heed Eckard's warnings. She had identified a "cursed factory" in Puerto Rico, from which medicines of the lowest quality were produced. The product list is long. There is the anti-depressant marketed in the United States as Paxil, the baby ointment Bactroban, the diabetic drug Avandia, Coreg for cardiovascular disease, Tagamet for gastritis. An impressive list. But not surprising. Glaxo is in good company: in recent years an escalation of sentences has hit the giants of the pharmaceutical industry. If Glaxo set the record for the payment to its "deep throat", the primacy in the fine belongs to Pfizer: 2.3 billion dollars of "criminal penalties" settled in September 2009 (for fraud on nine medicines). ElyLilly follows with 1.4 billion fines in January 2009. AstaZeneca had to pay out 520 million in April this year. Bristol-Myers Squibb was punished for 515 million. «We've imposed more fines in the last two years than in all of our previous history," said federal prosecutor TonyWest, who prepared the investigation on behalf of the Justice Department. Yet the anti-fraud law used against Big Pharma has been around since the Civil War: it was inaugurated after a scandal over the supply of rotten meat to the Union army. It is a particularly severe rule against those who defraud the state, and it applies to the pharmaceutical industry because a large part of its products are reimbursed by the national health system (Medicare and Medicaid). But the reason for the escalation of sanctions against Big Pharma in the last few years must be sought elsewhere. On the one hand there is the federal law to protect "whistleblowers" which is demonstrating growing effectiveness: it is a powerful incentive to repentance, for those who, from within a company, witness behavior

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Fedaiisf Federazione delle Associazioni Italiane degli Informatori Scientifici del Farmaco e del Parafarmaco