Over at GoozNews.com, Merrill Goozner raises a very good question. Under the headline “SEC Slaps J&J with $70 Million Penalty for Overseas Corruption” Merrill asks: “What’s the difference between what the medical supply company did abroad compared to what it or companies like it do every day in the U.S.?”
My response would be “not much”—except that U.S. patients are the victims when these companies bribe our physicians.
Goozner continues: “Forget for a moment that Johnson & Johnson was also accused of paying kickbacks to the Iraqi government to illegally obtain business. The Securities and Exchange Commission’s main charge accused J&J of “bribing public doctors in several European countries.”
“Here’s how the press release described the violations:
“Since at least 1998, subsidiaries of the New Brunswick, N.J.-based pharmaceutical, consumer product, and medical device company paid bribes to public doctors in Greece who selected J&J surgical implants, public doctors and hospital administrators in Poland who awarded contracts to J&J, and public doctors in Romania to prescribe J&J pharmaceutical products.
“Moreover, according to the SEC’s complaint filed in federal court in the District of Columbia, public doctors and administrators in Greece, Poland, and Romania who ordered or prescribed J&J products were rewarded in a variety of ways, including with cash and inappropriate travel. Another violation: J&J subsidiaries, employees and agents used ‘sham civil contracts’ with doctors.
“These wouldn’t be consulting agreements, would they? I fail to see how J&J’s actions abroad in these particular aspects of the case were any different from what makes the front page of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal every couple of months with regard to payments to U.S. physicians for attending dinners and lectures, installing preferred medical devices, and offering sham consulting agreements. In 2007, the government brought a major case against five device companies that temporarily cracked down on these practices. A week ago, a front page story told us these practices continue unabated at least one major U.S. hospital. Where are the ongoing investigation indictments in those and other cases?”
Read the rest of Goozner’s post–and see his recommendation that we pass a Corrupt Domestic Practices Act.