Thursday, September 02, 2010

"Reasonable" $600 MILLION Fine for Misbranding BOTOX: I Guess Allergan's Suit Against FDA Paid Off!

Allergan -- the company that markets Botox legally for wrinkles and illegally for other things -- agreed to pay $600 million in fines, including $375 million to the government as part of a Botox “misbranding” charge. Allergan admitted that its marketing of Botox from 2000 to 2005 led to intended use in treating headache, pain, muscle stiffness and juvenile cerebral palsy. Read the media stories and press releases here.

Considering that Eli Lilly paid $1.41 billion to settle charges that it had improperly marketed  Zyprexa for elderly patients with dementia and that Pfizer paid $2.3 billion to settle charges that it had illegally marketed the painkiller Bextra, the $600 million Allergan has to pay seems "reasonable," which is exactly how  Larry Biegelsen, an analyst at Wells Fargo Securities in New York, described it: “The $600 million settlement amount appears reasonable based on industry standards.”

Why such a "reasonable" settlement for a drug company that, IMHO, is an unethical marketer and the the drug industry poster boy for off-label promotion? Allergan, for example, has refused to abide by PhRMA's DTC Guidelines as well as PhRMA's Guidelines for Interactions with Healthcare Professionals (see "Allergan Doesn't Comply with PhRMA Guidelines, Wins Kudos Anyway"). Allergan has also been cited by the FDA for other violations such as a misleading Latisse Web site (see "FDA Reads My Blog: Declares Latisse Web Site Misleading").

You must read a bit further down in the media articles about this to learn that Allergan "is required as part of the agreement to drop the lawsuit it filed against the FDA in October challenging a government rule that prohibits marketing drugs for unapproved uses."

There's a lot to ponder when reading that statement.

I ponder, for example, whether Allergan got off much easier because it agreed to drop its suit? Which was probably frivolous to begin with!

BTW, I've written about Allergan's off-label migraine shenanigans previously. See Allergan's "Eye-popping" Migraine Botox Study: Freedom of Expression or Off-Label Promo Tool?

Allergan is currently seeking FDA approval of Botox for the treatment of migraine. In the above post I reviewed a clinical study that Allergan is doing to support its case. The drug was so ineffectual that the researchers admitted they “have searched for patient characteristics that may predict a favorable treatment response.” Of course, they ultimately were successful in winnowing down the migraine population that is responsive to treatment: ie, those people who suffer from "imploding" or "eye-popping" headaches but NOT "exploding" headaches.

This would all be a joke if Botox was not such a dangerous drug, which includes a black box warning on its label. But I won't get into that -- you can read what other people have to say about the dangers of Botox here.

P.S. As part of the agreement with the Justice Department, Allergan also will be required to publish information about its payments to doctors. I am not anticipating that Allergan's physician payment information will be easy to analyze considering that much more ethical drug companies have failed to be transparent in this regard (see "Transparency Vs. Translucency in Reporting Physician Payments").

1 comment:

  1. Allergan's status as a "rogue company" now seems set in stone. Its large staff of PR and marketing folks -- who could come out swinging and defuse the growing list of charges -- are jaw-droppingly quiet. This is Corporate Proaganda 101, to keep quiet when the company braintrust has been implicated as liars and lawbreakers, called to the mat and forced into submission by The Man. Corporate propaganda being what it is, all efforts will be made to keep this dreadful news out of the media outlets that face its current and potential customers.

    Mack has a point. What if Allergan subscribes to that well-documented standard of corporate behavior in America that demands secrecy, dishonesty, and deception? Often, that is what is meant when the corporate propagandists respond to employees who do have the information and insight to interpret the ethical failings of their employer. It's the most obvious and transparent cliche that corporate America can perpetrate: they are told to not respond to media inquiries except to say "it's just business as usual."

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