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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Risperdal Versus Volkswagen Diesel Engines

What is worse, Volkswagen purposely developing and installing software to cheat on emissions tests or Johnson and Johnson hiding side effects and a lack of efficacy of the drug Risperdal? Let us not focus on the impact of each act of dishonesty. The question is not whether it is worse to pollute the air than to hide harmful side effects of your pharmaceutical (and a lack of efficacy) from the FDA. The question is about the moral behavior of a group of executives. On a scale of 1 to 10, how morally corrupt was the behavior of the Volkswagen and Johnson and Johnson executives?

We often see this situation. A corporation is listed as a defendant in a huge lawsuit. They lose their case, admit no guilt and pay out huge sums of cash to settle. No individuals are held accountable. It is a perfect set up for a criminal organization.

Volkswagen is in the news. Most people know what they did. Volkswagen has admitted their crime. The CEO is gone. Volkswagen is now seriously taking on the job of restoring public faith in the integrity of their brand.

Johnson and Johnson was also in the news. They were found guilty of hiding side effects and a lack of efficacy for their drug Risperdal. They have been fined $2.2 Billion USD... $2.2 Billion?

Volkswagen is facing a potential $18 billion in fines after admitting that they sold 482,000 diesels since 2009. They will also have to recall all the vehicles and modify the emissions systems. And did I mention that the CEO is out of work?

If you divide $18B by $2.2B you get 8.18. Is the Volkswagen scandal 8.18 times as bad as the Risperdal scandal? What about the leadership of Johnson and Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals? Who lost their job? Not one executive felt the need to throw themselves or someone else under the bus like former Volkswagen CEO Martin WInterkorn. These executives still thrive in the pharmaceutical industry. They are what we consider, successful men and women.

It has always seemed strange to me... the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first, they love the produce of the second. - John Steinbeck

Here is a list of drug company fines from 2001 to the present. This is a list on Wikipedia listing the 20 largest settlements from the pharmaceutical industry. Note that the sum total of the 20 largest big pharma settlements with the Dept. of Justice equals $18 billion. The 20 largest fines equal one scandalous act by a car company selling 482,000 cars.

In case you have missed it, The Huffington Post has an ongoing narrative of the Risperdal case entitled Americas Most Admired Lawbreaker by Steven Brill here.

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