May 30, 2024

Drug giant accused of improper marketing to doctors

Schering-Plough 2003 annual report

One of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies is being investigated by federal prosecutors in Boston for paying doctors large sums to prescribe its drugs. According to an investigative report by the New York Times, Schering-Plough sent some doctors unsolicited cheques ranging from at least US$10,000 to six-figure sums in exchange for a “consulting” agreement which involved little more than prescribing its drugs. The government is also looking into allegations that Shering-Plough “flooded the market with pseudo- trials”. Doctors would receive US$1,000 to US$1,500 per patient for prescribing Intron A, the company’s hepatitis C treatment. But unlike most medical trials, the patients or their insurers paid for the very expensive drug themselves.

Over the past two years, Schering-Plough has set aside US$500 million to cover its legal problems, including allegations of offering improper financial incentives. Company officials say that the alleged activities took place before its new CEO, Fred Hassan, took charge and that it has revised its marketing strategies to eliminate financial inducements. Schering-Plough also manufactures the controversial morning-after pill, Postinor-2.