In the 2000s, the pharma company Questcor started raising the price of Acthar, an off-patent, 1950s-era drug prescribed for seizures in babies; they raised the price more than 10,000%, from $40 in 2000 to $38,892 today. To get doctors to prescribe their price-gouging meds, Questcor secretly offered bribes, a fact that came to light thanks to whistleblowers.
Questcor's strategy was so successful that in 2014, the company was acquired by rival Mallinckrodt, who claim that they ceased bribery operations, but continued to raise prices by more than $8,000, with enormous success — today, Acthar brings in $1b/year for Mallinckrodt.
Now, Mallinckrodt (which is about to change its name to Sonorant Therapeutics) has settled with the FTC and agreed to pay a $15.4m fine, assuming the DoJ okays the deal.
But this development isn't just about drug prices; it's about alleged bribery. Needless to say, other people often get prison time for bribery offenses. Recently, a Minnesota man got 29 months for trying to bribe a witness in a burglary case, a Texas prison guard got two years in prison for taking bribes, and a New York businessman got four years for repeatedly bribing New York cops. An Oregon man who recently tried to get his wife deported by bribing an ICE agent got four months in federal prison.
But America's largest businesses really do play by a different set of rules. Especially when those businesses are drug companies that can charge whatever they want and yet face no real consequences. Mallinckrodt's CEO, Mark Trudeau, made $14 million last year, which means that he makes almost enough in just one year to pay the company's settlement.
Drug Company Set to Pay $15 Million to DOJ Over Doctor Bribery Scandal [Matt Novak/Gizmodo]