This weekend the Chicago Tribune reported on breaking news related to several Depakote lawsuits filed by the U.S. government and half the states in the nation against Abbott Laboratories. At the heart of the suits are claims by the public bodies that the large drug company illegally marketed Depakote, an anti-seizure drug, for unauthorized uses. Unfortunately, the unauthorized marketing of drugs remains a common problem across the country, often resulting in harm to patients. Our Illinois medical malpractice lawyers know that medication errors are one of the most common forms of medical mistakes, affecting million of patients every year.
In this latest case, the public bodies began investing whether or not Abbott violated civil or criminal laws by marketing the drugs for “off label” purposes, including agitation and aggression in the elderly. Laws bar drug makers from actively promoting their drugs for purposes other than the ones approve by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Doctors may prescribe the drugs for those off-label purposes. However, there are times when off label uses of the drugs are not only ineffective, but dangerous. This is one of many reasons why it is important for all patients to take an active role in their treatment. Having open, honest discussions with doctors about every medication and the purpose of each is crucial to preventing unnecessary or harmful medication use.
Depakote was one of the company’s best-selling drugs, selling more than $1.6 billion worth in 2007 alone. However, following these latest allegations of illegal marketing practices, the company is likely to settle the suit for anywhere from 1 to 2 billion dollars. Officials with Abbott admitted that $1.5 billion has been set aside this quarter for use in a potential settlement. However, the parties involved are still in active discussions about a possible settlement, so nothing is yet concrete. Any settlement that is reached by the parties will first require judicial approval before it is finalized.
Rules about proper marketing of medications are put in place for the protection of consumers. It is vital that unscrupulous activity on the part of drug companies be investigated and explored at all corners to ensure patients are not harmed. The Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at our firm know that doctors must also be aware of these unscrupulous actions and guard against their involvement. Patient safety can never be compromised.
Unfortunately, seniors are often the ones who are victimized by these practices. Depakote was approved to treat epilepsy, bipolar disorder, and to prevent migraines. Yet, many seniors received the drug for other reasons. It remains to be seen if any harm came from the increased off label use. In a similar case, experts have found that “off label” use of antipsychotic medications in certain elderly patients with dementia comes with an increased risk of death. Obviously, the stakes are high whenever these medications are used, and so every precaution must be taken to ensure that the drugs not do more harm than good. Be sure to keep a close eye on all your medication to prevent falling victim to these problems.
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