Open Medicine EU

I will deal with the issues of science and patients later but this is a brief summary of some of the legal consequences to date of the J&J bribery case in Greece, Poland and Romania, described in my previous post.

In the settlement with the US Department of Justice the company admitted that its subsidiaries, employees and agents paid bribes to publicly-employed health care providers in Greece, Poland and Romania. The Department acknowledged the “extraordinary cooperation” of the company with regulatory authorities in the US, UK and elsewhere.

In April 2010, in the UK, Robert John Dougall a former executive of Depuy International a J&J subsidiary was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment (later suspended) for his part in the affair. He had been, among other jobs, director of marketing of the company with operating responsibility for Greece and other countries. On appeal, the English Court of Appeal summarised briefly the facts of the case and the mitigating circumstances why, in its view, Mr Dougall ‘s sentence should be suspended. In its Judgement, the court said that Mr Dougall had, so to speak, inherited what was a long standing practice in the company, that he made internal efforts to put an end to it but was overruled, and that he had encouraged efforts in the industry association, EUCOMED, to bring forward a code of ethics, urging other member companies that “the time is right to make things clean and clear in Greece”. He had pleaded guilty, had cooperated fully with the Serious Fraud Office and the US authorities and would continue to do so. He was a middle manager and there were others in the Depuy and J&J hierarchy that were “much more senior than he, who were involved in and promoted the corrupt practices”. There was no personal gain for him, and no breach of trust with his employers, since they were well aware of the bribery.

According to the judgement, the bribery was carried out mainly by payment (for “Professional Education”) to a third party of some 20 to 30% of the value of the company’s sales in Greece, to be passed on to doctors in cash, or in kind such as foreign travel for example. (Of course, some proportion of the money stuck with the third parties.)

On 8th April this year, the UK Serious Fraud Office was granted a Civil Recovery Order under which Depuy International was required to pay some £4.829 million, plus prosecution costs, “in recognition of unlawful conduct relating to the sale of orthopaedic products in Greece between 1998 and 2006”. The SFO statement can be read here .

In Greece itself, the authorities have frozen the assets of the DePuy Hellas company and prosecutions have been initiated against six doctors. For those who, unlike me, can read Greek you can find more on this in the newspaper Kathimeriini. (My thanks to the Greek reader who alerted me to this.)

In the US a number of shareholders have instituted a suit against the company in relation to the bribery. (In fact there are a number of shareholder cases against the company, including one attacking its “left-wing” policies – supporting Obamacare and action on climate change.)

Independently of the bribery case, although it may have some relevance, patients have instituted civil cases against the company in the US, Australia and elsewhere in relation to implants that were withdrawn from the market because they had a relatively high rate of failure.

I have no information so far about any follow-up in Poland and Romania.END

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