Justice has been on my mind a lot lately. We seemingly hear about non-stop in the media, both in news and entertainment. In fact, cartoonish notions of “American justice” bombard us so much that it’s sometimes difficult to recognize a true injustice when we see it.
I thought about this when I got the Hawaii Attorney General’s Aug. 7 news release titled “Hawaii Receives Approximately $477,000 in Settlement with Drug Manufacturer.” The money is part of a big multi-state settlement package totaling $280 million. At first glance, this sounds great.
“Attorney General Doug Chin announced today that Hawaii joined 29 states and the federal government last week in settling claims against Celgene Corporation (Celgene), a pharmaceutical manufacturer,” stated the news release. “Celgene had permission from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to market its drug Thalamid [sic] for skin conditions associated with leprosy and its drug Revlimid for transfusion induced anemia. This settlement resolves allegations that Celgene illegally marketed both drugs for cancer treatments that were unrelated to the skin conditions and anemia. Celgene’s promotions encouraged what the FDA considers “off label” uses without first securing FDA approval.”
Wow, that sounds pretty bad. According to Chin, “Money from the settlement will help with further investigations and prosecutions of medical fraud in this state”–specifically, the dough will get split between Hawaii’s MedQuest program and the Hawaii Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.
Of course, Celgene denies it did anything wrong. “Celgene has denied any wrongdoing in this matter, but is settling to avoid the uncertainty, distraction, and expense of protracted litigation,” the company said in a July 25 statement.
After thinking about all this for a minute or so, I realized that $477,000 is a rather low figure–especially considering Celgene’s annual revenue (which also took me about a minute to find). Two days after agreeing to the settlement, on July 27, Celgene reported total revenue for the second quarter of 2017 at $3,268 million–that’s more than $3.2 billion. It’s also a whopping 19 percent increase over what the company made in same quarter of 2016.
Put another way, the settlement figure Hawaii gets from Celgene represents a mere 0.015 percent of what the company made in three months this year (to be fair, Celgene’s complete settlement total of $280 million is 8.75 percent of what it made in three months).
In the U.S., this is called justice.