According to a Reuters story, sales representatives for Abbott Laboratories Inc’s subsidiaries routinely buy gifts for physicians in India to bribe them into prescribing certain drugs.
The practice is so blatant that an Abbott sales-strategy guide explicitly states that doctors who pledge to prescribe the company’s branded drugs, or who’ve already prescribed certain amounts, can expect gifts such as coffee makers, cookware and vacuum cleaners in return.
According to the story, public health experts and some Indian doctors say that a many major drug companies employ such tactics. As a result, drugs are dangerously overprescribed and expensive brands are prescribed instead of cheap ones, with devastating results for patients taking them.
The practice isn’t restricted to India, either. Last year, for example, Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay $70 million to settle U.S. charges that it paid bribes and kickbacks to win business in Greece, Iraq, Poland and Romania.
Johnson & Johnson also faces legal action in the United States involving its marketing of dangerous medical devices. A number of studies show that nearly half of the all-metal hip replacements manufactured by Johnson & Johnson subsidiary DePuy Orthopaedics fail within a few years, requiring patients to get additional surgery.
Widespread lawsuits also accuse the company of marketing transvaginal mesh implants, used to treat urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse, despite being aware of their tendency to break down and injure patients who received them.
The Reuters report says that many of the world’s top drug makers have warned in recent regulatory filings of potential costs related to charges of corruption in foreign markets.
But the Indian market is particularly vulnerable to corruption because of intense competition in that country. India flouted drug patents until 2005, refusing to rein in domestic copycats of pharmaceutical companies’ blockbuster medications. As a result, different brands proliferated.
The report quotes Indian physician Vinay Kulkarni as saying he refuses to accept gifts from reps, in part because he believes drug makers overcharge for their products to recoup marketing expenses.
“Ultimately, everything is being paid by the patient,” Kulkarni says.
You should consult with a doctor if you have any ongoing symptoms or health concerns. If you have significant injuries concerning DePuy hips or transvaginal mesh, you should also consult with a lawyer familiar with these cases discuss your legal rights.
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