Tuesday, December 13, 2016

"Should a drug company that’s agreed to pay billions in criminal and civil fines for illegally marketing its drugs to children and dementia patients be honored with an ethics prize?"

Um, no.

The company is Johnson & Johnson, which has of course paid out a lot of cash in federal penalties for fraudulent marketing. That's not a problem for an organization called Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics, or FASPE, which is honoring the company next month with an award for "ethical leadership." Art Caplan of NYU will be presenting the award.  If you'd like to attend, you can get prime seating for your entire group for a mere $50,000.

Sheila Kaplan of Stat News has the story, but sadly, it's behind a paywall.  Here is an excerpt:

FASPE Chairman David Goldman, an attorney in New York, said he was aware of the pharma giant’s various ethical tangles, but believes the company has moved beyond them. “We do think they’ve acknowledged their failures and taken the apropriate steps to resolve them,” he said. “They know what they’ve done; we talked to them about it and they’ve taken the right action.”

The award will be accepted by Dr. Joanne Waldstreicher, J & J’s chief medical officer. Goldman said she was “as committed to the ethics program and ethical behavior as anybody who we’ve seen.” He added: “We think we’ve got this right.”

Others disagree, noting that in 2013, J&J and its subsidiaries agreed to pay $2.2 billion to resolve criminal and civil allegations of improperly promoting several prescription drugs, including paying kickbacks to physicians.  That was one of the largest health care fraud settlements in US history. The company has also lost recent product liability cases involving allegations of its talcum powder causing ovarian cancer.

“It’s like giving Strom Thurmond a civil rights prize, or Wells Fargo an award for business ethics,” said Dr. Carl Elliott, a bioethicist at the University of Minnesota. “Of all the potential people or organizations to honor with an ethics award, why pick a company that has just paid a $2.2 billion federal penalty for fraud?”

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