Friday, July 29, 2011

Forest Labs' CEO Faces Exile

The Forest Laboratories CEO, Howard Solomon, who built his company's fortune on the antidepressants Celexa and Lexapro, faces exile from the health-care industry.

On Apr. 12, Solomon learned that the Office of Inspector General (OIG) which handles the U.S. Health and Human Services Department's efforts to fight waste and fraud in government health programs, is considering "excluding" him. Technically, this means exclusion from doing business with federal health programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and the Veterans Affairs Department. Functionally, it means a ban from the entire health-care industry.

Forest's troubles began in 2001, when Joseph Piacentile, a non-practicing physician in N.J., filed an action alleging that Forest was providing kickbacks to doctors who prescribed Celexa. In 2003, Christopher Gobble, a salesman who had been fired in 2002 by Forest Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary, filed a whistleblower suit in federal court in Boston alleging that the company was illegally pushing doctors to prescribe its antidepressants to children.

In September 2010, more than seven years after Gobble filed his suit, Forest Pharmaceuticals pleaded guilty to three criminal charges and settled civil claims filed by the Justice Department with a $313 million fine. Forest admitted it obstructed the FDA by concealing information, distributed an unapproved thyroid drug, and illegally promoted Celexa for use by children and adolescents.

In March, Lewis Morris, chief counsel to the inspector general, testified to Congress that "we are concerned that the providers that engage in health-care fraud may consider civil penalties and criminal fines a cost of doing business" and said that the government is forced to allow major pharmaceutical makers that have been convicted of crimes and have paid millions in fines to continue to participate in health-care programs because of the "potential patient harm that could result from an exclusion" of an entire company.

Hence, the move currently under consideration by the OIG to hold the CEO accountable by excluding him personally from participating in federal health programs, and thus forcing him out of the company.

Read the full article in the July 18 Bloomberg Businessweek.

Celexa and Lexapro manufactured by Forest are addictive and harmful psychotropic drugs prescribed for fraudulent mental disorders. There are no physical tests or scientific evidence to substantiate the theory that a chemical imbalance in the brain causes depression or any mental disorder. SSRI's such as Celexa and Lexapro are no more effective than placebo, and can cause violence and suicide.

Click here for more information about the side effects of these drugs.

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