Push for profits led to drugmaker's woes
Added under Health
At a congressional hearing in September 2004, a senior executive at Forest Laboratories Inc. insisted that his company didn't market its antidepressant drugs to children and teenagers.
"I want to emphasize that, because the FDA has not approved pediatric labeling for our products, Forest has always been scrupulous about not promoting the pediatric use of our antidepressant drugs, Celexa and Lexapro," said Dr. Lawrence Olanoff, then chief science officer and executive vice president at the New York-based firm. "That is the law, and we follow it."
But that statement, federal regulators now say, was patently untrue. They accuse the company's Earth City-based marketing arm–Forest Pharmaceuticals–of actively promoting its antidepressants for children's usage.
Not only that, regulators said, but the company's management concealed a negative pediatric study on Celexa, duped physicians about the drug's clinical trials and encouraged sales reps to pay illegal kickbacks to pediatricians to induce them into prescribing antidepressants to children and adolescents.
New documents offer a glimpse into the push for profits at a little-known Earth City company while at the same time shedding light on aggressive marketing tactics used by the U.S. pharmaceutical industry.
According to whistle-blowers who bolstered the government's case against Forest, each sales agent was armed with a budget exceeding $240,000 per year–money that was spent on lavish gifts, speaker's fees and other inducements to physicians.
Sources: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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