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Top Eight Largest Drug Lawsuit Settlements of All Time


Americans trust the pharmaceutical industry to create drugs that are safe and effective. When big drug companies breach that trust, they can cause real harm to patients and their families. Large settlements against drug companies obtained by pharmaceutical lawyers provide restitution to those harmed by the negligence or willful acts of pharmaceutical companies and deter those companies from cutting corners or making other decisions that put people like you at risk.

As medical technology has advanced, Americans are taking more prescription drugs than ever before to treat conditions that were once debilitating or which offered a bleak prognosis for survival. Increased dependence on pharmaceuticals exposes us to greater risks, especially when drugs have not been properly vetted or are being utilized for unapproved uses.

Lawsuits involving pharmaceutical companies have yielded some of the largest settlements in U.S. history. Many of these lawsuits have involved deceptive practices used by pharmaceutical companies to market drugs for purposes the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved. Physicians in the U.S. may prescribe off-label uses of drugs if they believe it is in the best interests of their patients, but pharmaceutical companies are prohibited from marketing their products for off-label uses.

Here are some of the drug lawsuits with the highest payouts of all time to the government, company whistleblowers, and men and women harmed by Big Pharma’s misdeeds:


GlaxoSmithKline Fraud Case

doctor consults patient

The largest pharmaceutical lawsuit settlement of all time was reached in 2012, when GlaxoSmithKline agreed to pay $3 billion—$2 billion in civil penalties and $1 billion in criminal fines—regarding fraud concerning its sale of antidepressants for uses unapproved by the FDA and failure to report safety information about a diabetes drug. The settlement also covered claims of improper marketing of several other drugs.

The lawsuit involved some of GlaxoSmithKline’s best-selling drugs—Paxil, Wellbutrin, and Avandia, among others.

Former employees of the company blew the whistle on the company’s wrongful practices, which involved paying doctors to promote its drugs for use among children and for use in treating conditions they weren’t cleared for treating by the FDA. The employees also said the company failed to report data concerning heart risks posed by the anti-diabetes drug Avandia.

Although $3 billion is a hefty settlement, it’s only a small chunk of what the company made on the drugs over the years covered by the suit and settlement. In that time period of about a decade, Avandia sales were around $10.4 billion, about $11.6 billion in Paxil sales were made, and Wellbutrin sales hit the $5.9 billion mark.

Pfizer Bextra Case

In 2009, Pfizer paid $2.3 billion to settle civil and criminal allegations that it illegally marketed Bextra, a pain killer. The company pleaded guilty to felony charges that it improperly promoted off-label uses for Bextra, such as use in treating pain after knee surgery. The FDA pulled Bextra from the market in 2005, citing safety concerns regarding an elevated risk of heart attack and stroke and possibly fatal skin reactions to the drug. Prior to that, the drug had only been approved for treating arthritis and menstrual cramps.

Johnson & Johnson Risperdal Settlement

In 2009, Johnson & Johnson paid $2.2 billion to settle civil and criminal allegations the company promoted Risperdal and other drugs for uses unapproved by the FDA and paying kickbacks to doctors to recommend the use of the drug.

The case alleged that a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary promoted Risperdal to treat anxiety, agitation, confusion, and hostility in elderly dementia patients. At the time the company’s misdeeds occurred, Risperdal was only approved for treating schizophrenia. According to government prosecutors, Risperdal put elderly patients at increased risk of stroke.


Abbott Labs Depakote Case

In 2012, Abbott Labs paid $1.5 billion in civil and criminal penalties regarding allegations it promoted Depakote for uses unapproved by the FDA. The company pleaded guilty to promoting the drug to control agitation and

aggression in elderly patients and to treat schizophrenia. The government accused Abbott of embarking on a campaign from 1998 to 2006 to market the drug to nursing homes for elderly patients. The government also alleged the company engaged in a similar campaign to market it as a schizophrenia treatment. Abbott provided big rebates to pharmacy providers to promote off-label use of Depakote.

Depakote had only been approved for three uses: epileptic seizures, bipolar mania, and migraine prevention. The drug had been discontinued from a medical trial involving dementia patients because it had many adverse side effects, such as dehydration, anorexia, and somnolence. The company pushed the drug as a schizophrenia treatment even after an internal study found that it was ineffective.

Eli Lilly & Company Zyprexa Case

Pharmaceutical titan Eli Lilly & Company paid $1.415 billion to settle civil and criminal claims that it marketed Zyprexa, an antipsychotic, for uses not approved by the FDA. Like the Depakote and Risperdal settlements, the Zyprexa settlement involved claims that its maker targeted the elderly for unapproved uses of its product.

Zyprexa was approved for treatment of psychotic disorders, but Eli Lilly also promoted it for the treatment of hostility, aggression, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, sleep disorders, and other problems among elderly patients. The company used its marketing department to promote the drug in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. The company also marketed the drug to primary care physicians, although the FDA had approved no use for the drug in primary care.


TAP Pharmaceutical Products Medicare Fraud Case

In 2001, TAP Pharmaceutical Products paid $875 million to settle criminal and civil charges that it defrauded Medicare and Medicaid, as well as patients, by helping doctors get higher than justified government reimbursements and payments from patients for the drug Lupron. TAP, a joint venture between Abbott Laboratories and Takeda Chemical Industries, also gave doctors kickbacks for prescribing its drugs.


Amgen Aranesp Case

take as neededIn another off-label marketing case, Amgen paid $762 million in criminal penalties and civil fines related to its marketing of Aranesp for unapproved uses. The government charged Amgen with marketing Aranesp for treating anemia in cancer patients who were not undergoing chemotherapy. The drug had been approved by the FDA only for treating cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. The company trained its marketing reps to ask doctors leading questions that would allow them to push using the drug for off label uses.


GlaxoSmithKline Poor Manufacturing Practices Case

GlaxoSmithKline paid $750 million in 2010 to settle criminal and civil charges that it knowingly sold contaminated products and an ineffective antidepressant for years. Bad-drug lawyers accused the company of selling about 20 drug brands manufactured at a plant in Puerto Rico that had numerous contamination problems that company leaders knew about. Whistleblowers within the company alerted the government to the company’s illicit practices.



If you believe that you or a loved one have been injured by a drug, you don’t have to take it lying down. Pharmaceutical lawyers can help you and people like you pursue claims against the big drug companies for deceptive practices, fraud, and other misdeeds that may have harmed you or someone you care about.

When pursuing claims against Big Pharma, you want a law firm experienced in taking on huge corporations and their legions of lawyers. Saunders & Walker P.A. has successfully fought some of the nation’s largest drug companies for its clients, obtaining settlements and justice. This Florida-based law firm specializes in medical device and pharmaceutical suits and has led several complex litigations. For compassionate, experienced representation, contact Saunders & Walker P.A.’s pharmaceutical lawyers today for a free consultation.





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Saunders & Walker
3491 Gandy Blvd
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