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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

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Big Pharma Behaving Badly (And Making Me Want to Vomit)

Pharmaceutical industry giant Merck Serono this week paid $44.3
million to settle a lawsuit alleging that the company paid kickbacks
to MS neurologists for prescribing its blockbuster MS drug, Rebif
(click here). The scam allegedly included hundreds of doctors, and
seems to have been centered on the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis
Clinics (CMSC), a nonprofit corporation that is supposed to help
educate patients. Among its other activities, the CMSC administers the
quarterly NARCOMS surveys, designed to build an ever growing database
on MS and its effects on patients, which are diligently filled out by
thousands of multiple sclerosis patients, including, until now, yours

The lawsuit was brought by a former Merck Serono employee turned
whistleblower, who was fired by the company after expressing disbelief
that such underhanded and blatant misdeeds were going on with the
company’s full knowledge and participation. The entire lawsuit
document is available online (click here), and to save you the
trouble, the good stuff starts on page 6.

We're not talking nickels and dimes here, but huge chunks of cash, on
the order of $25,000 a pop. The CMSC allegedly funneled over $500,000
to various doctors, effectively operating as a money-laundering outfit
for Merck Serono, and the fact that the company settled for $44
million indicates this disgusting scam went far deeper than what is
apparent in the legal document. Unfortunately, by settling the
lawsuit, Merck Serono has effectively prevented all of the gory
details from coming to light, as would've been the case if the suit
had been brought to trial, and thus become public record. The
settlement covers fraud charges regarding Medicare and Medicaid, but
what of the patients that may have been steered into injecting
themselves with a drug that might not have been their best choice by
scoundrels in white lab coats more intent on stuffing their pockets
than following the Hippocratic oath? Where is their justice?

Coming at a time when trust between neurologists and their patients
has become frayed due to the CCSVI controversy, the revelations
provided by the lawsuit and subsequent settlement are especially
revolting. It is simply outrageous that a drug company can get away
with paying physicians kickbacks for prescribing drugs with what
amounts to a slap on the wrist. The terms of the settlement, $44.3
million might sound like a sizable sum, but considering that sales of
Rebif exceed $1 billion a year, the penalty is miniscule.
Additionally, this is most likely only a quick peek under a very big
rock, and it is just a glimpse at goings-on that would shock and
dismay the legions of desperate patients who are the real victims of
these disgusting, dishonest, and deceitful practices.

The fact that this case was settled, and not brought to court, ensures
that the names of most of the players will not be revealed. I'm
tempted to reveal those named in the lawsuit here, but as a settlement
was reached, and no verdict of guilt ever handed down, they remain
simply accused, not convicted. My personal ethics therefore prevent me
from slandering those who might not be guilty as charged, however
unlikely that may be. That's not to say that you shouldn't click the
link (here it is again), read the lawsuit, and find those names for
yourself. In fact, I wholeheartedly encourage you to do so.

Every single doctor and medical professional who received any of these
tainted funds, or participated in distributing them, should be named,
shamed, stripped of their licenses, and thrown in jail. They're a
disgrace, each a pustule on the ass of humanity, and deserve nothing
more than humiliation and degradation. Unfortunately, thanks to the
niceties of a system that too often protects those in positions of
power at the expense of the regular folks who rely on them, the
scoundrels involved will remain anonymous, free to enjoy the fruits of
their despicable actions. Despite our high-minded ideals of justice
for all, far too often there is justice for none.

As for those involved in this medical and legal debacle, and the many
other similar cons we will likely never hear about, may their eyes
fall out. Bastards.

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