VIDEO: Zwier, Guttman 85L on Abbott’s $1.6 Billion Whistle-blower Settlement
On Monday, May 7, Abbott Laboratories announced a $1.6 billion settlement agreement with the U.S. Justice Department in connection with an attempt to increase profits by improperly marketing the drug Depakote for off-label uses.
While physicians may prescribe drugs for purposes beyond those indicated by the Food and Drug Administration, pharmaceutical companies are not permitted to market drugs for uses other than those approved by the FDA.
Professor Paul Zwier II, director of Emory Law’s Center for Advocacy and Dispute Resolution, interviewed Reuben Guttman 85L about the investigative work leading up to the lawsuit and settlement. Guttman was attorney for Meredith McCoyd, a former Abbott sales representative who was one of four whistle-blowers in the case. A video of the interview is posted here.
The Justice Department found Abbott had marketed the drugs to nursing homes as an alternative to antipsychotic drugs, which require more physician and staff oversight to administer.
“What we have in our country is a problem where our nursing homes are understaffed,” Guttman told Zwier. “The nursing home industry is predominantly a corporate industry that’s motivated by profits. What the industry wants to do is deliver the services to the patient, the resident, at the lowest possible cost. In order to do that, what they do is cut the staff.
“As a consequence, what I think is really happening is patients are being put on these types of drugs to sedate them,” Guttman continued. “And if you sedate them, then they’re in bed and … you don’t have to staff the home with the same level of staff.”
Abbott’s behavior was exacerbated by the fact that marketing efforts were targeted at older dementia patients, “people who didn’t have the ability to engage in informed consent,” Guttman told The New York Times.
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