GlaxoSmithKline agrees to pay $750 million in global settlement of adulterated drugs allegations

by Ben Vernia | October 26th, 2010

The Department of Justice announced on October 26 that GlaxoSmithKline has agreed to pay a total of $750 million, and have a subsidiary plead guilty to a felony violation of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, settling allegations of adulterated drugs manufactured at a now-shuttered Puerto Rico plant. According to DOJ’s press release:

SB Pharmco Puerto Rico Inc., a subsidiary of GlaxoSmithKline, PLC (GSK), has agreed to plead guilty to charges relating to the manufacture and distribution of certain adulterated drugs made at GSK’s now-closed Cidra, Puerto Rico, manufacturing facility, the Justice Department announced today. The resolution includes a criminal fine and forfeiture totaling $150 million and a civil settlement under the False Claims Act and related state claims for $600 million.

The drugs, manufactured at the plant between 2001and 2005, are Kytril, Bactroban, Paxil CR and Avandamet. Kytril is a sterile anti-nausea medication. Bactroban is a topical anti-infection ointment commonly used to treat skin infections. Paxil CR is the controlled release formulation of the popular anti-depressant drug, Paxil, and Avandamet is a combination Type II diabetes drug.

The Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) prohibits the introduction or delivery for introduction into interstate commerce of any drug that is adulterated. Under the FDCA, a drug is deemed adulterated if the methods used in, or the facilities or controls used for, its manufacturing, processing, packing or holding did not conform to or were not operated or administered in conformity with current good manufacturing practice to assure that such drug met the requirements as to safety and had the identity and strength, and met the quality and purity characteristics, which it purported or was represented to possess.

The criminal information filed today alleges that SB Pharmco’s manufacturing operations failed to ensure that Kytril and Bactroban finished products were free of contamination from microorganisms. The criminal information further alleges that SB Pharmco’s manufacturing process caused Paxil CR two-layer tablets to split. The splitting, which the company itself called a “critical defect,” caused the potential distribution of tablets that did not have any therapeutic effect and tablets that did not contain any controlled release mechanism.

The criminal information also alleges that Avandamet tablets manufactured by SB Pharmco did not always have the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved mix of active ingredients, and, as a result, potentially contained too much or too little of the ingredient with the therapeutic effect. Finally, the criminal information alleges that SB Pharmco’s Cidra facility suffered from longstanding problems of product mix-ups, which caused tablets of one drug type and strength to be commingled with tablets of another drug type and/or strength in the same bottle.

SB Pharmco has agreed to plead guilty to a criminal felony for releasing into interstate commerce adulterated Kytril, Bactroban, Paxil CR and Avandamet, in violation of the FDCA. Under the plea agreement, the company will pay a criminal fine of $150 million, which includes forfeiting assets of $10 million. The guilty plea and sentence is not final until accepted by the U.S. District Court in Boston.

Under the civil settlement, GSK has agreed to pay an additional $600 million to the federal government and the states to resolve claims that it caused false claims to be submitted to government health care programs for certain quantities of adulterated Kytril, Bactroban, Paxil CR and Avandamet. The United States contends that GSK sold certain batches, lots or portions of lots of drugs, the strength of which differed materially from, or the purity or quality of which fell materially below, the strength, purity or quality specified in the drugs’ FDA applications or related documents. GSK thereby knowingly caused false and/or fraudulent claims to be submitted to, or caused purchases by, Medicaid and the other federal health care programs.

The federal share of the civil settlement amount is $436,440,000, and GSK will pay up to $163,560,000 to states that participate in the agreement.

The case arose from a qui tam suit filed in Massachusetts. The relator will receive $96 million (a generous 22% share of the federal civil payment).

The press release did not mention a corporate integrity agreement.

Leave a Reply

Recent Posts

Recent Comments