January 23, 2017 — Sanofi-Aventis must face a whistleblower lawsuit accusing the company of illegally promoting the chemotherapy drug Taxotere for unapproved uses, according to a federal judge in Pennsylvania.
Off-label marketing might be protected free speech — but only if it was truthful and not misleading. That’s a question for a jury to decide after more fact-finding.
That was the conclusion of a memorandum (PDF) issued by U.S. District Judge Lawrence Stengel on January 9, rejecting a bid by Sanofi-Aventis to dismiss the lawsuit under statute-of-limitations and “free speech” defenses.
Sanofi-Aventis is a French drug-maker, but it argues that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects its sales representatives’ promotion of Taxotere for purposes that are not approved by the FDA.
The long-running Qui Tam lawsuit was filed back in 2001 by a whistleblower named Yoash Gohil, who worked as a sales representative from February 1982 up until he resigned in June 2002.
He exposed a “fraudulent marketing scheme” that helped triple sales of Taxotere in less than four years. The revenue jumped from $424 million in 2000 to $1.4 billion by 2004 — a remarkable increase.
Gohil claims that from 1996 until 2004, Aventis trained sales representatives to downplay safety risks, expand the market for Taxotere into unapproved uses, and paid kickbacks to reward doctors.
Those kickbacks allegedly included “sham unrestricted grants,” speaking fees, travel, entertainment, sports and concert tickets, fees, free samples, and free reimbursement assistance — to incentivize doctors to prescribe Taxotere for off-label uses.
More than 700 lawsuits have been filed by cancer patients who did not re-grow their hair after completing chemotherapy with Taxotere. The label in the U.S. was not updated to include “permanent alopecia” until 2015, over a decade after similar warnings were issued in Canada.
Do I have a Taxotere Lawsuit?
The Schmidt Firm, PLLC is currently accepting Taxotere induced injury cases in all 50 states. If you or somebody you know has been diagnosed with permanent hair loss, you should contact our lawyers immediately for a free case consultation. Please use the form below to contact our Defective Drug Litigation Group or call toll free 24 hours a day at (866) 920-0753.
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