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In yet another case of big companies caring more about their bottom line than their customers, pharmaceutical giant Abbott Laboratories pleaded guilty to misbranding Depakote (divalproex sodium). Misbranding occurs when a company promotes a drug to treat medical conditions that the drug has not been approved for by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Approved to control seizures, prevent migraines and shorten manic episodes in patients with bipolar disorder, the drug was promoted for treating schizophrenia and to minimize aggression in patients with dementia. A trial designed to confirm the safety and effectiveness of Depakote for dementia patients was disontinued when side effects like dehydration, anorexia and drowsiness occurred too frequently. Yet Abbott’s sales force continued to market the drug for this specific use to nursing homes and long-term care facilities. They even offered large rebates if the nursing homes used Depakote in this manner. Tim Heaphy, U.S. Attorney in the Western District of Virginia stated, “This is an elder abuse case.”

While some remain hopeful that lawsuits that cost pharmaceutical companies more than a billion dollars will stop them from taking advantage of nursing homes and putting innocent nursing home residents at risk, others believe that even that amount is not large enough to deter the practice, especially when the profits to be made are so high. When compared to the $13 billion Abbott has made from the sales of Depakote alone, $1.5 billion seems like a small drop in a really big bucket.


About the Editors: The Shapiro, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.

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