They manufacture, market and sell prescriptions and medical devices they allegedly know to be harmful – then, when caught and called to the carpet on it, wind up paying out fines, penalties and settlements that amount to pocket change in relation to their multi-billion dollar profits (which they write off as the “cost of doing business”). Not one executive goes to jail.
Then, to add insult to injury, they defraud government health care programs, sometimes to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. Again, nominal fines are assessed, some kind of symbolic court-ordered supervision may be imposed and wrists slapped – but again, nobody goes to jail.
Boston Scientific, one of the medical device manufacturers responsible for the pelvic mesh that has caused serious health complications in patients who receive them, has been under investigation by the attorneys general in several states over its marketing of transvaginal surgical mesh products. At the same time, the company is facing federal charges over violations of False Claims statutes in a number of states. These violations involve one of Boston Scientific's “spinal cord stimulator” products. A device generally used to relieve lower back pain for patients. According to recent post on Drugwatch.com, the company allegedly engaged in fraudulent billing and withheld information on the possible dangers of the device. The have also been accused of “off-label” promotions, marketing the device for purposes for which it was not designed. (Although “off-label” marketing has been illegal, a recent court decision may change that in the name of “free [corporate] speech.”)
Finally, Boston Scientific most recently filed an appeal in federal court, asking for dismissal of a three-year-old “whistleblower” suit in which the plaintiff alleged that the company was engaging in off-label marketing for another device and offering surgeons kickbacks to use it on their patients. The reason for the appeal: a similar lawsuit against the company had been dismissed previously.
This is happening as sales for Boston Scientific's women's health products have dropped significantly. According to a company spokesperson, the decline in revenue from these products is due to “continued pressures on elective procedures” (in other words, insurance companies don't want to foot the bill) and the recent FDA warning about pelvic mesh devices – the complications from which are far more common than the manufacturers would like us to believe.
Boston Scientific's third-quarter filing with the SEC is available here.