NEW YORK — The pharmaceutical marketplace is one of the most scrutinized industries when it comes to advertising.

There is good reason for this scrutiny as some drug companies use advertising as a way to push prescription drugs to those who may not necessarily need them.

It can also be used by companies as a way to market a drug as safe where it may otherwise be a dangerous drug.

So why has it come to this?

According to a study in the Journal of Pharmacy and Therapeutics, “Direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising (DTCPA) has grown rapidly during the past several decades and is now the most prominent type of health communication that the public encounters.”

This means that the majority of information people receive about prescription drugs comes from the manufacturers themselves. Not really the best way to find unbiased information about a drug.

And then comes the sales and marketing side to doctors.

According to an article in The New York Times, “Almost every major drug maker has been accused in recent years of giving kickbacks to doctors or shortchanging federal programs. Prosecutors said that they had become so alarmed by the growing criminality in the industry that they had begun increasing fines into the billions of dollars and would more vigorously prosecute doctors as well.”

The article brings to light kickbacks given to doctors to prescribe medicine to patients. This means that you may receive a prescription for something you don’t really need or isn’t approved for your ailment. That is why it is important to always ask your doctor if the medicine they are prescribing is approved by the FDA for your specific condition.

Thanks to whistleblowers, the government has been able to crack down on illegal marketing tactics by drug manufacturers. Here are some of the largest settlements that have resulted from crack downs over the last several years.

Here are five of arguably the biggest lawsuits and investigations related to prescription drug marketing:

5. $181 million (Johnson & Johnson – 2012): Drugmaking giant Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay $181 million to numerous states over the marketing of Risperdal in 2012. The original lawsuit alleges the company improperly marketed the drug in the form of “off-label” promotion. This settlement amount is not part of any Risperdal lawsuit brought against the company for it being linked to serious medical conditions.

4. $515 million (Bristol-Myers Squibb): In 2007, Bristol Myers settled complaints against it for illegally marketing the drug Abilify by allegedly paying kickbacks to doctors for prescribing the drug.

3. $1.6 billion (Abbott Laboratories – 2012): In 2012, Abbot agreed to pay the Justice Department and several states a sum of $1.6 billion to settle complaints for illegally marketing its drug Depakote. The drug was approved for treatment of seizures but was being marketed for other purposes, including dementia and schizophrenia.

2. $2.3 billion (Pfizer – 2009): Pfizer settled claims over its drug Bextra for illegally marketing the drug for uses other than for what it was approved for by the FDA. In addition to the company paying the monetary settlement, one of the marketing reps was found criminally responsible in the case.

1. $3 billion (GlaxoSmithKline – 2011): GlaxoSmithKline agreed in 2011 to settle numerous complaints (civil and criminal) with the U.S. government over its marketing practices related to several drugs. One, in particular, was Avandia which prosecutors accused the company of manipulating medical research in order to promote the drug.

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