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How Far Off Is A Settlement With Big Pharma?

Posted Oct 13 2010 7:07am

In 1992, the Supreme Court ruled that the 1966 warning label law on cigarette packages does not shield tobacco companies from all lawsuits. This opened the door to sue tobacco companies for violation of antitrust laws by failing to disclose addictive qualities of tobacco.

On November 23, 1998 the Attorneys General and other representatives of 46 states. Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and the District of Columbia signed an agreement with the five largest tobacco manufacturers (Brown & Williamson Tobacco corporation, Lorillard Tobacco Company, Philip Morris Incorporated, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Commonwealth Tobacco, and Liggett & Myers), ending a four-year legal battle between the states and the industry that began in 1994 when Mississippi became the first state to file suit. Four states (Florida, Minnesota, Mississippi and Texas) had previously settled with tobacco manufacturers for $40 billion.

The tobacco industry spent $40 million on the anti-settlement advertising blitz, and $58 million on lobbying during 1998.

Tobacco litigation peaked in the late 1990’s but it still goes on today. Billions of dollars have been paid out.

The Tobacco Settlement should be a guideline for a Pharmaceutical Settlement.

The Settlement

(Exchange “Big Pharma” with “Tobacco”)

The Foundation

Anti-smoking advertising campaign are extremely effective when they are long-term, and consistently portray smoking as hazardous for adults and children alike, according to an article in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Pharmaceutical advertising is ubiquitous. Legos with the logo of Seroquel were featured in a recent New York Times article recently.  (In the waiting room…  children played with Legos stamped with the word Risperdal, made by Johnson & Johnson. It has since lost its patent on the drug and stopped handing out the toys. Greg Panico, a company spokesman, said the Legos were not intended for children to play with — only as a promotional item.)

Long and often-repeated television ads lure viewers into the serene world of pharmaceutical bliss. Once lonely, depressed and miserably forgotten on the couch, these very same people are seen smiling euphorically into the eyes of their loved-ones, standing outside on, what the viewer is to believe will be a string of perpetually beautiful days, arms flung out to capture the overflowing joy that is now theirs – because they took a pill. The side effects quickly and quietly tagged on the end of the ad, sound like background music, bland and unimportant  in the presence of such remarkable happiness.

It is not mentioned that two-thirds of people on antidepressants don’t get better. The Abilify ad, which basically is telling you to step up onto the next rung on the psychiatric drug ladder and add an antipsychotic drug, because what they’re giving you on the lower rung – antidepressants – don’t work.

In his research, Robert Whitaker has conclusively shown that in most cases these drugs work no better than a placebo – and can also have serious side effects, including causing even more serious mental disorders than the one the patient is being treated for.

Truth in advertising? My daughter was on Abilify but within two days, the feeling of blood rushing in her veins was so uncomfortable she stopped taking it. This was not before her doctor prescribed another drug to add into the mix to combat the weird blood rushing problem. This was clearly not their only problem with the drug. In July of 2008, Bristol-Myers Squibb was ordered to pay $499 million dollars to satisfy a suit against the company for questionable marketing and pricing.

“The allegations were that these companies not only engaged in a pattern of kickbacks and false reporting to drive up both the sales and prices for its drugs, they also encouraged health care providers to prescribe a potent drug to both children and seniors for uses that had not been approved by the FDA,” Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker said in a prepared statement. “The drive to make certain that the bottom-line meets Wall Street expectations can never justify defrauding the taxpayers or putting our most vulnerable citizens at risk.”

The Settlement for the Tobacco Companies

Requires the industry each year for ten years to pay $25 million to fund a charitable foundation which will support the study of programs to reduce teen smoking and substance abuse and the prevention of diseases associated with tobacco use.

The foundation was required to carry out nationwide, sustained advertising and education programs to counter youth tobacco use and educate consumers about the cause and prevention of diseases associated with tobacco use.

The foundation was also required to create an industry-funded $1.45 billion national public education fund for tobacco control.

According to Pfizer’s 2008 annual report, their net income averaged $8.1 billion per year for 2007-2008. For 2006, it was $19.6 billion! These are the profits for just ONE pharmaceutical company.

There have been many lawsuits against the makers of Zyprexa, Risperdal and Seroquel. Pharmaceutical giant Astra-Zeneca was ordered to pay $520 million dollars to settle the Justice Department’s lawsuit against them for improperly promoting it’s anti-psychotic medication Seroquel. The Justice Department claimed that A-Z marketed the drug as treatment for  the treatment of aggression, Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder( PTSD). Its intended use is for Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia.

The enormous amount of money changing hands in these lawsuits is making some lawyers very rich but very few people abused by the drugs saw significant money.

The “illnesses” linked to pharmaceutical drugs are not as clearly defined as lung cancer. Instead, the pharmaceutical companies twist the findings and blame  side effects, chronic need for more medication and lack of efficacy of their drugs on the “illness”. Once the psychotropics have been introduced, the brain is immediately affected. Many refer to these effects as “traumatic”, the brain behaving like it has been subjected to significant injury.

Public Access to Documents and Court Files

“The American people deserve to know the truth about the tobacco industry’s marketing practices….”

U.S. Rep. Thomas Bliley.

The American people deserve to know the truth about the pharmaceutical industry’s marketing practices.

The Settlement

Requires tobacco companies to open, at their expense, a website which includes all documents produced in state

and other smoking and health related lawsuits.

It is important to note that they are requiring transparency – a commodity which the pharmaceutical industry is unfamiliar.

Requires the industry to maintain the site for ten years in a user- friendly and searchable format (requires and index and

other features to improve searchable access).

Requires the industry to add, at its expense, all documents produced in future civil actions involving smoking and health cases.

As new litigation comes up, they have to announce it.

Outdoor Advertising

“Tobacco companies spend more than $5 billion annually, or $13 million a day, on advertising and marketing campaigns.” Federal Trade Commission.

The Settlement

Bans all outdoor advertising, including: billboards, signs and placards in arenas, stadiums, shopping malls, and video game arcades.

Limits advertising outside retail establishments to 14 square feet.

Bans transit advertising of tobacco products.

Allows states to substitute, for the duration of billboard lease periods, alternative advertising which discourages youth smoking.

Tobacco Merchandise and Product Placement and Sponsorship

“Thirty percent of kids (12 to 17 years old), both smokers and nonsmokers, own at least one tobacco promotional item, such as T-shirts, backpacks, and CD players.” —

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

A document uncovered in the Minnesota case revealed how Phillip Morris provided products for use in movies as youth-oriented as “The Muppet Movie” and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”

Dissolution of Tobacco-Related Organizations

“The documents, considered as a whole, provide evidence that supports the state’s assertions that defendants used CTR (Council for Tobacco Research) to mislead the public…” — Honorable George Finkle, King County Superior Court Judge (Washington State).

The Settlement

Disbands the Council for Tobacco Research, the Tobacco Institute, and the Council for Indoor Air Research.

Requires all records of these organizations that relate to any lawsuit to be preserved.

Provides regulation and oversight of new trade organizations.

A whiff of this kind of provision in a pharmaceutical settlement and the shredders would be going night and day. Maybe they already are! Would NAMI bite the dust?

Financial Recovery For The States

The Settlement

Requires industry payments to the states in perpetuity, with the payments totaling $206 billion through the year 2025.

Provides that distributions to states will be made based on formulas agreed to by Attorneys General.

Requires annual payments by the industry to begin April 15, 2000.

Free Samples

“Samples encourage experimentation by providing minors with a risk-free and cost-free

way to satisfy their curiosity.” — Institute of Medicine.

The Settlement

Free samples cannot be distributed except in a facility or enclosed area where the operator ensures no underage person is present.

“Yes, I’d like to learn more about a FREE trial of ABILIFY !” is the banner on the official Abilify website. “Talk with your doctor if you have been on an anti-depressant for at least six weeks and still feel depressed.”

Lobbying

“Big tobacco spent $28.8 million in 1996 and $35.5 million in 1997 and employed 208 lobbyists to lobby Congress.

That is one lobbyist for every 2.5 members of Congress.” –

Public Citizen.

The Settlement

Tobacco companies prohibited from opposing proposed state or local laws or administrative rules which are intended to limit youth access to and consumption of tobacco products.  The industry must require its lobbyists to certify in writing they have reviewed and will fully comply with settlement terms including disclosure of financial contributions regarding lobbying activities and new corporate culture principles; Prohibits lobbyists from supporting or opposing state, federal, or local laws or actions without authorization of the companies.

Prohibition on Agreements to Suppress Research

“Cigarettes kill more than 400,000 Americans every year. This figure represents more deaths than from AIDS, alcohol, car accidents, murders, suicides, drugs and fires – combined.” —Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

The Settlement

Prohibits manufacturers from jointly contracting or conspiring to:

Limit information about the health hazards from the use of their products;

Limit or suppress research into smoking and health; and

Limit or suppress research into the marketing or development of new products.

Prohibits the industry from making any material misrepresentations regarding the health consequences of smoking.

Prohibits manufacturers from jointly contracting or conspiring to:

Limit information about the health hazards from the use of their products;

Limit or suppress research into smoking and health; and

Limit or suppress research into the marketing or development of new products.

Can you imagine Big Pharma being told that they can not longer “limit information about the health hazards from use of their product”? What if they couldn’t “limit or suppress research into the marketing or development of new products”? How would Big Pharma make their billions if they were prohibited  ”from making any material misrepresentations regarding the health consequences” of their products?

It is easy to exchange “Tobacco” with “Big Pharma” or the “American Psychiatric Association”.

But, which one is the main target? Big Pharma and the American Psychiatric Association are like two arms of a monster which has the American public firmly in it grasp.

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