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The 5 Largest Pharmaceutical Lawsuit Settlements (So Far)

Pharmaceutical companies have a duty of care to provide safe and effective medication and to be transparent about the risks and side effects.

Prescription drugs can bring relief for a variety of ailments, from minor pain and vitamin deficiencies to life-threatening conditions like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. When they work, they are invaluable tools to make life easier for the people who depend on them. When they don’t work, they can cause a lifetime of pain and suffering. Some of the largest pharmaceutical lawsuit settlements have sent a clear message to pharmaceutical companies that there is little room for error when it comes to the health and safety of the consumer. 

#5 Eli Lilly $1.42 billion

Eli Lilly takes the number five spot for being ordered to pay $515 million in criminal penalties and $800 million in civil judgments because they promoted the popular antipsychotic drug Zyprexa for uses outside of the FDA’s approval. The suit said that the manufacturer of the drug, which is used to treat schizophrenia, promoted it to doctors as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Eli Lilly marketed the drug to primary care physicians who then prescribed them to people of all ages for a variety of ailments, from anxiety to depression and hyperactivity. Eventually, the company was hit with a class-action lawsuit, resulting in one of the biggest judgments of any other pharmaceutical company. 

#4 Abbot $1.5 billion

Depakote was a wildly popular drug, originally approved to treat seizures, migraines, and bipolar mania. Abbot discovered that there was high profit in marketing it as a treatment for schizophrenia and dementia. Nursing home administrators all over the country bought the drug, administering it liberally to their disoriented dementia patients to keep them sedated and calm. For more than eight years, the company marketed Depakote to nursing homes, even though there had been clinical trial evidence that suggested that it was dangerous when used with these populations. 

#3 Johnson & Johnson $2.2 billion

The popular cosmetics manufacturer was forced to pay $485 million in criminal penalties and $1.72 billion in civil fees. The FDA approved the drug Risperdal to treat schizophrenia. Johnson & Johnson’s sales reps were found to have been marketing the drug for use in calming elderly dementia patients, and encouraging doctors to prescribe them for use by children or people with mental disabilities. The lawsuit also included the company’s deceptive marketing of the drugs Invega and Natrecor. This was one of the largest lawsuit settlements during the 2000s, and one of the largest in history. 

#2 Pfizer $2.3 billion

Photo by Olga DeLawrence on Unsplash

Drugmaker Pfizer was hit with a $1.3 billion criminal fine and a $1 million civil fine for falsely promoting three drugs–Bextra, Lyrica, and Zyvox—used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, epilepsy, and infection, respectively. The company paid kickbacks to doctors for prescribing these drugs and was accused of submitting false claims to Medicaid for uses that were not medically approved. At least one of the drugs, Bextra, was taken off the market following the ruling. 

#1 GlaxoSmithKline $3 billion

GlaxoSmithKline has the dubious honor of paying the largest legal penalties of any other drugmaker for several violations of FDA rules. The company, which manufactured Paxil, Wellbutrin, and Avandia, promoted these drugs for off-label uses. They also paid kickbacks to doctors for prescribing Flovent, Valtrex and Imitrex, used to treat asthma, genital herpes, and migraine headaches. They were also charged with making false statements about the safety of Avandia, one of the company’s most popular drugs. 

Pharmaceutical companies have a duty of care to provide safe and effective medication and to be transparent about the risks and side effects. In addition, they are expected not to pay doctors to recommend their drugs to patients. When these duties are breached, innocent people can get hurt. 

Bottom Line

If you have been hurt due to a faulty drug and are looking for a pharmaceutical investigations lawyer, call us for a free consultation today. We can help. 

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