British drug company GlaxoSmithKline has agreed to pay $750 million as a result of a whistleblower lawsuit. The deal calls for the drug giant to plead guilty to knowingly selling tainted drugs for years, including drugs Avandia (used for Type II diabetes), Paxil (an antidepressant), and Tagamet (an antacid).
Glaxo agreed to pay $150 million in criminal fines and $600 million in civil penalties. Whistleblower Cheryl Eckard will receive $96 million after claiming that she was fired from her position as Glaxo’s manager of global quality assurance. She was fired shortly after making many complaints about Glaxo’s largest drug plant located in Cidra, Puerto Rico. The government alleges that the plant manufactured drugs that were contaminated, mislabeled or had too little or too much of the active ingredient contained in the drugs. After conducting an investigation, federal officials seized hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of contaminated pharmaceuticals. Glaxo pleaded guilty to a felony charge, admitting it distributed adulterated Paxil CR, Avandamet, Kytril, and Bactroban, among others.
Unfortunately, this is far from the only bad press that Glaxo has received in recent years. Paxil has been reported to cause addiction and severe withdrawal effects and Avandia has been linked to heart attacks and strokes. This current settlement is just the latest in a growing number of whistle-blower lawsuits that drug makers have settled with multi-million dollar fines.