This country’s healthcare system is a mess. Not a mess like the British NHS, but a mess, nonetheless. The price of prescription drugs is one aspect that has gotten out of control. Many Americans forgo needed medicine because they can’t afford it, and the projected 3.8% increase in drug prices expected during 2020 isn’t going to make matters any better. Unsurprisingly, government regulations have helped unlock human greed. For example, over a six-year period (2011-2016) according to CNN, Medicare spent $2 billion on the drug Acthar, a medication used to treat seizures in infants. CNN is now reporting that the same pharmaceutical company guilty of hiking Acthar’s prices upwards of 97,000% has also been bribing doctors to buy the drug.
Two whistleblowers at a pharmaceutical company responsible for one of the largest drug prices increase in US history said the company bribed doctors and their staffs to increase sales, according to newly unveiled documents in federal court.
The effort, the whistleblowers said in a lawsuit against the company, was part of an intentional ‘multi-tiered’ strategy by Questcor Pharmaceuticals, now Mallinckrodt, to boost sales of H.P. Acthar Gel, cheating the government out of millions of dollars.
Questcor’s allegedly underhanded efforts helped push sales of the drug to over $1 billion a year. Those efforts have also earned the company the attention of the Justice Department. The lawsuit claims that not only did the company bribe doctors but also lied to the Food and Drug Administration. The suit reads:
Questcor has attempted to conceal and cover-up its payment of kick-backs and its illegal promotion of H.P. Acthar Gel by making false statements to the FDA and directing employees to conceal evidence by failing to disclose … the full nature and extent of its advertising, promotional and marketing materials and plan.
The pharmaceutical company has vehemently denied the allegations, but NYU law professor Jennifer Arlen told CNN, “The government has tended to take over cases that become winners. Historically [for the company], the government’s decision to take over is a bad sign.”
No matter how this matter is resolved, one thing is clear: government intervention in the marketplace encourages greedy humans to exploit the system. When guaranteed federal dollars are at play, the free market becomes less and less free, prices rise, corporate fat cats benefit, and consumers are harmed.