Feds mull harsher punishments for offending drugmakers

If fines don't keep drugmakers in line, what next? That's the question that the Health and Human Services Inspector General addresses in the latest issue of Inside Health Policy (covered by Pharmalot). And his answers are pretty harsh. It could be another sign that the Obama administration is getting tougher on the pharma industry.

Drugmakers that find themselves on the wrong end of a federal probe too often may have to give up product exclusivity, bringing generic competition to the market early, IG Lewis Morris told IHP. Companies might have to sell meds. They might actually be barred from doing business with the federal government, a fate Pfizer recently avoided by creating a shell company to plead guilty to off-label marketing charges. (To make that work, the government would have to figure out a way to keep meds on the market, so patients wouldn't be hurt in the process.)

And individual executives might be punished, too--even if the government doesn't have enough evidence to show that they directly participated in fraud. They could be held accountable under the "responsible corporate official doctrine," IHP reports. Those responsible officials might be fired from their jobs. They might be individually prohibited from doing business with the feds, so they couldn't work for companies that contracted with the government. It could be mighty tough to find a job in the drug industry with that prohibition hanging over your head.

- read the Pharmalot post