Free speech, PhRMA? Not in this off-label marketing case, feds say

The pharma industry's free speech stand in a whistleblower lawsuit against Millennium Pharmaceuticals? Not so fast, says the Department of Justice. The First Amendment doesn't protect speech that spawns illegal conduct, federal prosecutors say in their own brief in the case.

The feds are responding to a brief filed by the industry trade group PhRMA, which argued that drugmakers should be able to talk up off-label uses of their products, as long as that talk is truthful. It's a First Amendment right, the trade group said.

But the Justice Department sees PhRMA's argument this way: The First Amendment confers a constitutional right to spur other parties to submit false claims to government health programs, as long as it's done by speech. -- Tracy Staton (email | Twitter)

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