AbbVie is a pharmaceutical company known for their production of a drug called Humira. Humira is used primarily to treat arthritis, colitis, and Chron’s disease, among other medical ailments. Recently, it’s come to light that AbbVie has paid and provided other incentives to medical professionals to have Humira prescribed. The over prescription has called for a lawsuit against the company.
Humira, although a widely used medication, can cause severe side effects, including death. Whether the medication helped or not isn’t in question, rather the issue pertaining to doctors prescribing medicine not based on a patient’s best interest, but on personal interest of “kick-backs”. AbbVie has caused problems in the patient doctor dynamic with their disregard for the Hippocratic Oath and all it stands for.
Humira and Its Use
With more than $12-billion in sales last year, Humira hardly needed the help AbbVie provided with its “gifts” to the medical community in exchange for patient prescriptions. While the drug helps millions battle symptoms of arthritis, if prescribed improperly it could have lasting health complications. As an injected medication, there is always the risk of infection when using Humira. This coupled with the warning that it may cause cancer makes it a risk not worth taking for patients who don’t actually require the drug and could have used an alternative with fewer side effects.
The other issues with this Humira scheme, aside from the blatant disregard for human life and patient/doctor relations, are the upset it’s caused in the insurance industry. Medical insurance is already an area of upset for many Americans who struggle to afford healthcare. With Humira increasing insurance prices (U.S. insurance companies having paid more than $1.2-billion over the past 5 years), it’s made it even less achievable for those with flakey healthcare coverage to receive the care they require.
The Incentives from AbbVie
The lawsuit against AbbVie will investigate the offerings of money, travel expenses paid, food and drink, and other incentives offered to doctors and nurses in San Diego and other parts of California. The company also provided relief to doctors from the task of coercing patients into taking Humira, by providing nurses who would do the job. Nurses were included in the incentive scheme, receiving similar “gifts” for their work.
AbbVie has argued that these incentives were made to help all healthcare professionals working with Humira and other AbbVie medications, but the evidence against them seems all too apparent. If AbbVie loses the case it could mean millions in settlements.
Doctors have a responsibility to put patient interests above their own, especially when it comes to the health, wellness, and safety of those patients. Whether AbbVie will be the only party to take a hit in the law suit, or if any doctors and nurses will be included is yet to be seen, but it should act as a message to doctors and nurses across the state. Patient lives and the Hippocratic Oath require more consideration when the temptation for expensive meals and kickback incentives are in play. The case will proceed over the coming months.