Pharma Pays Up

It’s been a bad time in court and in the media for Big Pharma. Last week, according to the Wall Street Journal, Merck agreed to pay $950 million and plead guilty to a criminal misdemeanor charge to resolve allegations that the company promoted its now-defunct pain drug Vioxx for rheumatoid arthritis before the FDA approved it for that use. USA Today reports that in the last year the drug company Johnson and Johnson has been found liable or reached settlements totaling $751 million in taxpayer health care fraud claims and paid $70 million to settle foreign bribery charges. And in Montana, the Billings Gazette reports that Montana doctors, pharmacists and other health care professionals received $692,983 in payments and perks from drug companies between 2009 and early 2011, a practice that is legal but troubling to most patients and to medical ethicists.