Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Bribery Pays

Caught double dipping...

"The former chief pharmacist for the state Public Welfare Department, who earned extra income from sources that included two drug manufacturers, was charged Tuesday with crimes that carry potential prison time.

Steven J. Fiorello, of Palmyra, was fined more than $27,000 last year by the State Ethics Commission for using his position to get consulting work. He was arraigned Tuesday on criminal charges for the same activity.

"Pennsylvania law very clearly prohibits state officials from using their public positions for personal financial gain," said state Attorney General Tom Corbett. "Accepting illegal payments and then failing to report them is not only a conflict of interest, but also a violation of the public trust."

Fiorella was arraigned Tuesday on two felony counts of conflict of interest, which each carry a maximum five-year prison term and $10,000 fine, and misdemeanor counts of accepting honoraria and failing to disclose income on annual statements of financial interest.

--SNIP--

Fiorello, 59, served as pharmacy director for the welfare department's Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services for several years. He left state government and now works in the pharmacy industry as a consultant, his lawyer said. He already paid Ethics Commission fines totaling $27,269 in April 2005.

Fiorello allegedly accepted more than $10,000 for consulting work he did and trips he took between 1998 and 2003 for various companies, including the Pfizer and Janssen drug companies, according to court papers."

Nice work if you can find it, especially if you can get away with it, which is looking increasingly doubtful for Mr. Fiorello.

Source: BusinessWeek

Reading more, I found that...

"Fiorello was employed as the Director of Pharmacy for the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare's Office of Mental Health, Substance and Abuse Services. As part of his responsibilities, Fiorello served on a committee that decided which drugs would be used for mental health treatment in all state hospitals - decisions which guided more than $9 million in annual drug purchases by the Commonwealth."

And a third source said that:

"According to former investigator turned whistleblower, Allan Jones, PA taxpayers are saddled with an expensive drug treatment model known as PennMap, for the treatment of mentally ill persons in state care.

"This model is part of a large pharmaceutical marketing scheme designed to infiltrate public institutions and influence treatment practices," he explains, "Pennsylvania is paying tens of millions of dollars for patented drugs that have no proven advantage over cheaper generic drugs." [See here and here for examples on this point]

As part of the overall scheme, on July 27, 2001, Tom Ridge appointed Gerald Radke, an Eli Lilly Marketing Director, to head the PA Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. With Radke at the helm, PA Medicaid funded sales of Lilly’s Zyprexa rose from approximately $26.5 million in 2000 to $34.2 million in 2001, and reached $39.2 million in 2003. In state hospitals, hundreds of patients had their medications switched in the absence of medical need or indication, to comply with administrative decisions."

OK, the third source is an article by Evelyn Pringle, with whom I have some credibility issues (see here), but if her story is even close to accurate, then it looks like the money given to Fiorello by drug companies was a GREAT investment. Pay him a few measly thousand dollars and suddenly atypical antipsychotics are everywhere in the PA mental health system, which is of course worth millions.


3 comments:

Daniel Haszard said...

Investors watch Eli Lilly shares drop $2.80 post election.

My issue is Zyprexa which is only FDA approved for schizophrenia (.5-1% of pop) and some bipolar (2% pop) and then an even smaller percentage of theses two groups.

So how does Zyprexa get to be the 7th largest drug sale in the world?

Eli Lilly is in deep trouble for using their drug reps to 'encourage' doctors to write zyprexa for non-FDA approved 'off label' uses.

The drug causes increased diabetes risk,and medicare picks up all the expensive fallout.There are now 7 states (and counting) going after Lilly for fraud and restitution.---

Daniel Haszard

Anonymous said...

Attorney General Tom Corbett claimed that "Pennsylvania law very clearly prohibits state officials from using their public positions for personal financial gain." However, he did not include that Steve Fiorello did not use the money for personal financial gain. He donated a commendable amount of the money to Planned Parenthood and his Methodist Church in Palmyra, among other organizations.

Steve Fiorello is one of the most ethical, responsible, reasonable men I have been privileged to know. He consistently strives to work towards finding the greatest good for everyone- the State, taxpayers, and patients alike.

Yes, Fiorello made a mistake of accepting the money and especially not reporting it, but he has paid dearly, both fiscally and emotionally. The criminal charges against Fiorello are the real unjustice, demonstrating the vast flaws of our governmental system. If Fiorello's true story was reported, no one would jump to conclusions after reading a faulty news article, rehashed by other 'reliable' networks.

CL Psych said...

Hey, Fiorello may be a great guy for all I know. My concern is that his influence may have been courted through bribery. What he did with money he received from drug companies is essentially inconsequential to me -- my concern is that he allegedly received money in a manner that influenced his decisions to be favorable toward those who paid him.