Allegations of Pharmaceutical Fraud Lands Forest Labs in Hot Water

The Department of Justice has filed a civil complaint against Forest Laboratories alleging that the pharmaceutical company intentionally concealed a clinical study containing negative results involving the drugs Celexa and Lexapro.  According to the complaint, several top executives at the company did not disclose the results of the study that showed that the drugs were not effective and could even pose risks to children.  In spite of this information, from 2001-2004 the company promoted clinical trials showing the effectiveness of the drugs while concealing the existence of the negative study to anyone including its own medical advisors or sales reps.  Further, the complaint alleges that Forest Laboratories paid pharmaceutical kickbacks including paying for vacations and other benefits to physicians to promote the drugs’ use by physicians.

Celexa and Lexapro are popular antidepressants approved by the FDA only for adults.  They are two versions of the same drug, Citalopram. Lexapro is Forest Labs’ blockbuster drug with sales of $2.8 billion in 2008.The company however actively improperly marketed these drugs for children even though in 2008 they sought approval from the FDA to use the drug to treat depression in adolescents.  While antidepressants approved for adults are used by physicians to treat children, Celexa and Lexapro now carry a prominent “black box” warning that these drugs could cause suicidal thinking or behavior in some children.

It appears that the Government has joined a whistleblower lawsuit filed by two former Forest Labs employees.  This follows what has clearly been a long-running federal investigation triggered by the filing of a qui tam lawsuit.

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