To serve and protect

I’m afraid the old motto “to serve and protect” is no longer about public safety or consumer protection. Instead, it’s about the government serving themselves and protecting their pensions.

I’ve been reading lately about how local governments are intentionally “letting” people commit infractions, just so they can collect even more fines, fees and penalties. (Beyond all the taxes they already collect). All in an effort to help balance their budgets—i.e. keep themselves employed (or comfortably retired).

And it appears that the federal government may have taken this strategy to a larger scale recently by imposing an unprecedented $3 billion penalty on a major multi-national drug company. The FDA charged GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) with committing legal and ethical violations, and openly engaging in professional conflicts of interest.

But the real “kicker” here is that these things have been going on for years. “Hiding” in plain sight.

By acting only now, it’s as if the government’s real purpose is just to take a share of the profits GSK has already been raking in for a decade using these practices.

Medical practice, like any of the learned professions, is an area rife with potential conflicts of interest.

As a civilian medical officer at Walter Reed, I remember us all being given numerous insulting lectures about avoiding conflicts of interest. And even the “appearance” of conflict of interest. The problem was—and still is—that the term “conflict of interest” means different things to different people. In other words, it can be changed to  whatever the bureaucrats in charge want it to mean. Depending on how it suits their own often obscure purposes.

And inevitably, the longest and loudest lectures were always from the very people who had the most to hide. They didn’t want some minor infraction by one of their “troops” to lead to an investigation that might open their own cans of worms.

Ironically, right after I had made my decision to leave the government, my  “commander” was caught in his own unethical conflicts, far worse than any of the ones he had lectured us about. And was “punished” by being transferred from one plush Washington assignment to another. Retaining full rank and lifetime benefits.

When you add all the petty rules and paperwork of the government on top of genuine potential conflicts of interest, you have a system which just hamstrings the honest, hardworking, ethical professionals. Or drives them out altogether. While the biggest offenders get a virtual free pass and stay on for the long-term at taxpayer expense.

It reminds me of many gun control laws which restrict honest, tax-paying citizens (and limit their Second Amendment rights). While the criminals always manage to get hold of illegal guns (if not outright given away to them by the Justice Department as in Operation “Fast and Furious”). And then use them against a disarmed public citizenry  being “served and protected” by the permanent bureaucracy.

So what is the “smoking gun” the government found in the hands of GSK? Actually, it’s more like an arsenal…

  • Illegally promoting off-label uses of Paxil and Wellbutrin to physicians
  • Failing to report negative safety findings regarding the diabetes drug Avandia to the FDA

And the tremendous fines GSK will be forking over to the Feds are for:

  • Promoting off-label uses (not approved by the FDA) of five different drugs
  • Paying physicians to tout prescribing its products
  • Lying about the safety of Avandia
  • Providing false pricing information about its drugs
  • Underpaying Medicaid drug rebates

But GlaxoSmithKline’s most despicable offense, in my opinion, isn’t even on the list of “official” charges. The disturbing truth is that they have been acting as a corporate child predator for more than a decade.

Back in 2000 and 2001, GSK invited psychiatrists to “educational forums” at resorts in Hawaii, California, and Puerto Rico. The company paid for their airfare, lodging, meals, and recreational activities.

And while they were enjoying all of these luxuries, attendees heard a “leading” child psychiatrist say that depressed children had significantly better results on GSK’s anti-depressant than on a placebo. But none of these drugs were ever approved for or intended to be pushed onto poor, depressed, defenseless children.

I wonder what the government will “discover” in another 10 years about what is being done to us and our children right now? I wonder how much money will be made from it? And what will be the Feds’ “take” to feed their own spending addiction?

But, more importantly, I wonder how many innocent people will suffer because they’ve spent a decade looking the other way?