Big-pharma group GlaxoSmithKline have been fined $3bn after being found guilty of bribing doctors to over-prescribe unsuitable antidepressants to children.
The pharmaceutical company are also expected to be found guilty of failing to report safety concerns of the diabetes drug Avandia.
The company encouraged sales reps in the US to mis-sell three drugs to doctors and lavished hospitality and kickbacks on those who agreed to write extra prescriptions, including trips to resorts in Bermuda, Jamaica and California.
The company admitted corporate misconduct over the antidepressants Paxil and Wellbutrin and asthma drug Advair.
Psychiatrists and their partners were flown to five-star hotels, on all-expenses-paid trips where speakers, paid up to $2,500 to attend, gave presentations on the drugs. They could enjoy diving, golf, fishing and other extra activities arranged by the company.
GSK also paid for articles on its drugs to appear in medical journals and “independent” doctors were hired by the company to promote the treatments, according to court documents.
Paxil – which was only approved for adults – was promoted as suitable for children and teenagers by the company despite trials that showed it was ineffective, according to prosecutors.
Children and teenagers are only treated with antidepressants in exceptional circumstances due to an increased risk of suicide.
GSK held eight lavish three-day events in 2000 and 2001 at hotels in Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Palm Springs, California, to promote the drug to doctors for unapproved use.
Those who attended were given $750, free board and lodging and access to activities including snorkelling, golf, deep-sea fishing, rafting, glass-bottomed boat rides, hot-air balloon rides and, on one trip, a tour of the Bacardi rum distillery, all paid for by GSK.
Air fares were also covered for doctors and spouses, in most cases, and speakers at the event were paid $2,500 each.