Big Pharma: Modern Robber Barons
Abbott Laboratories—$1.67 billion to Centocor for patent infringement, 2009.
AstraZeneca—$520 million “over marketing” Seroqueo, 2010.
Bayer—$97.5 million kickbacks, 2008; $16 million aspirin price fixing, 2008.
Bristol-Myers Squibb—$515 million marketing and pricing, 2007; $300 million criminal investigation of accounting practices, 2005.
Cephalon—$443.9 million improper sales and marketing practices 2008.
GlaxoSmithKline—$2.5 billion set-aside for Avandia settlements, 2010; $150.8 million Medicare fraud; 2005; $3.4 billion tax fraud, 2006.
Johnson & Johnson—$81 million illegal promotion of Topomax, 2010.
Lilly—$700 million Zyprexa claims, 2005; $1.42 Billion Zyprexa marketing abuse, 2009.
Merck—$650 million marketing practices, 2008; $4.85 billion Vioxx settlements, 2007, $2.3 billion tax fraud, 2007.
Novartis—$250 million sex discrimination, 2010.
Pfizer-Wyeth—$2.3 billion Bextra marketing fraud, 2009; $103 million Prempro damages 2009.
This adds up to $22+ billion—roughly the amount in civil fines BP will be paying under the U.S. Clean Water Act for the Gulf spill at $4,300 per barrel.
On the Positive Side: Two Examples of Brilliant Marketing in the Big Pharma Arena
1. Being of a certain age with typical male problems, I was standing at a urinal in the men’s room of a moderately upscale Philadelphia restaurant and found myself staring at a framed advertisement at eye level. The product: the prostate manager Uroxatral, an upscale version of Flomax that reportedly has none of the unpleasant side effects. On the wall beside me was a small box of take-one brochures and a promise (as I recall) of the first month free. Never have I seen a more perfect offer to precisely the right people with the right income in the right place at precisely the right time. Marketing doesn’t get any better than that.
2. In a fascinating turnabout, it must have been a physician or a pharmaceutical lawyer that inadvertently came up with the most powerful single line of selling copy in the history of advertising: