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DOJ Charges Glaxo Exec With Obstruction In Marketing Antidepressant

The DOJ files criminal charges against a Glaxo lawyer in connection with the marketing of the antidepressant Wellbutrin
The DOJ files criminal charges against a Glaxo lawyer in connection with the marketing of the antidepressant Wellbutrin

Just a few weeks after settling a $750 million case against GlaxoSmithKline for selling tainted products, Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney in Boston, yesterday charged a former Glaxo lawyer with obstruction and making false statements in a case stemming from alleged violations in marketing the antidepressant Wellbutrin, The Boston Business Journal reports. You can read the full indictment and Ortiz's press release here.

Lauren Stevens, of Durham, N.C., allegedly provided the misinformation after the federal Food and Drug Administration contacted the company in October 2002 as part of a probe into possible marketing of the drug for off-label uses. While physicians sometimes prescribe drugs for uses other than those for which they have been approved, companies selling the drugs are barred from encouraging those applications.

"The indictment alleged that, in response to the FDA’s inquiry, Stevens signed and sent a series of letters from the company to the FDA that falsely denied that the company had promoted the drug for off-label uses, even though she knew, among other things, that the company had sponsored numerous programs where the drug was promoted for unapproved uses," U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz's office said in a statement Tuesday.

"The indictment further alleges that Stevens knew that the company had paid numerous physicians to give promotional talks to other physicians that included information about unapproved uses of the drug," the statement continues.

Actually, neither the indictment, nor The Business Journal story mentions the drug Wellbutrin by name. But NPR's Scott Hensley provides it, and some nice context, in his blog post on the indictment:

The heart of the case concerns the company's use of outside doctors to talk up the mystery drug. The DOJ statement gives these highlights:

Stevens signed and sent a series of letters from the company to the FDA that falsely denied that the company had promoted the drug for off-label uses, even though she knew, among other things, that the company had sponsored numerous programs where the drug was promoted for unapproved uses. The indictment alleges that Stevens knew that the company had paid numerous physicians to give promotional talks to other physicians that included information about unapproved uses of the drug. According to the indictment, the company paid one such physician to speak at 511 promotional events in 2001-2002 and another physician to speak at 488 such events during that time period.

The drug, Glaxo confirms, was Wellbutrin SR, and the company is cooperating with the government in the case.

This program aired on November 10, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

Rachel Zimmerman Twitter Health Reporter
Rachel Zimmerman previously reported on health and the intersection of health and business for Bostonomix.

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