Be Your Own Advocate: A Cautionary Tale of Abbott Labs


pills and prescription bottle
Last month I recommended the book, The Four Agreements (see May 21, 2012 blog entry). The first of the 4 agreements that author Ruiz discusses is to “Be impeccable with your word.” Ruiz says this is the most important, but also the most difficult to maintain. This agreement should not only be for our personal lives, but for everyone and every company in existence today. It should even apply to Abbott Laboratories, a pharmaceutical company.

It is appalling that a large pharmaceutical company can carry through an intention to misrepresent the use of a drug for years to elderly people and people with limited capabilities to make their own decisions. I was very upset when I heard this story about Abbott Labs taking advantage of people in need of help. Here is a summary of the story I read:

In May of this year, Abbott Laboratories agreed to pay $1.5 billion to resolve criminal and civil liabilities stemming from the company’s unlawful promotion of the prescription drug Depakote. The payment will be the second largest ever by a drug company.

Abbott pleaded guilty to misbranding Depakote by promoting the drug to control aggression and agitation in elderly patients with dementia and to treat patients with schizophrenia, while the Food and Drug Administration approved neither use. The FDA previously approved Depakote to help treat epileptic seizures, bipolar mania, and the prevention of migraines.

For 8 years, Abbott Labs “maintained a specialized sales force trained to market Depakote in nursing homes for the control of agitation and aggression in elderly dementia patients, despite the absence of credible scientific evidence that Depakote was safe and effective for that use,” according to a press release from the Justice Department. The company also marketed the drug to treat schizophrenia even after paying for two studies that failed to show that the drug treated the illness. Abbott Labs did not publish the results of those studies for four years, while continuing to promote the inappropriate use of the drug.

Not only did Abbott Labs misrepresent the use of the drug, they also compromised people’s minds and bodies by doing so. After everything, this drug company is allowed to continue in business after paying the fine. They will undoubtedly be able to afford the fine by increasing drug prices, which have no limits in price.

The bottom line: be your own advocate for any medications you use. And, be the advocate for your elderly friends & relatives. Read all the information about recommended medications and “Be Impeccable with Your Word.”

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