June 4 British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline Plc has agreed to pay $105 million to settle allegations by 44 U.S. states and the District of Columbia that it promoted its medicines for unapproved uses, several states attorneys general announced on Wednesday.
Glaxo was accused of illegally marketing its big-selling asthma drug Advair for use by mild asthma sufferers and the antidepressants Paxil and Wellbutrin for use by children and teenagers without FDA approval. Several antidepressants have been associated with increased risk of suicide in younger patients.
"GlaxoSmithKline put its business interests ahead of what was best for vulnerable patients," Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said in a statement.
While doctors are allowed to prescribe medicines in any way they see fit - including so called off-label uses - pharmaceutical companies are allowed to promote their products only for indications specifically approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
"Consumers shouldn't have to wonder whether financial incentives are negatively influencing their medical care," Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said in a statement announcing his state's $2.6 million portion of the settlement.
Under the settlement, Glaxo is banned from disseminating information describing any off-label use of a product, unless such information and materials are consistent with applicable FDA regulations and FDA guidance.
The settlement also requires Glaxo to continue its "Patient First Program" that reduces the level of financial incentives by the company to sales representatives in order to reduce deceptive marketing tactics for five years. (Reporting by Bill Berkrot; Editing by Leslie Adler)