Pro Publica/The Washington Post, September 19, 2011
Two years ago, drugmaker Eli Lilly pleaded guilty to illegally marketing its blockbuster antipsychotic Zyprexa for elderly patients. Lilly paid $1.4 billion in criminal penalties and settlements in four civil lawsuits. But a doctor named as a co-defendant in one suit—for allegedly taking kickbacks to prescribe the drug extensively at nursing homes—never was pursued. Last year, Alpharma paid $42.5 million to settle federal allegations that it paid kickbacks to doctors to prescribe its painkiller Kadian. "Healthcare decisions must be based solely upon what is best for the individual patient and not on which pharmaceutical company is paying the doctor the biggest kickback," Rod J. Rosenstein, U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland, said in a statement announcing the settlement. But the doctors, accused of trading prescriptions for paid speaking gigs, faced no consequences. At least 15 drug and medical-device companies have paid $6.5 billion since 2008 to settle accusations of marketing fraud or kickbacks. However, none of the more than 75 doctors named as participants were sanctioned, despite allegations of fraud or of conduct that put patients at risk, a review by ProPublica found.