back to article SF tech biz forks out $146m in fines, settlements after painkiller makers bribed it to design medical software that pushed opioids to patients

A US software developer must cough up $145m in fines and settlements – for building an application that counseled doctors to prescribe highly addictive pain pills against medical guidelines after it was bribed by painkiller manufacturers to rig the system. Practice Fusion had developed a cloud-based medical record management …

  1. Snake Silver badge

    American corruption

    front and center, folks.

    But it's OK as long as stock values keep rising.

    ...

    I can only hope [this] country comes to its senses (one day) and kicks the promoters of absolute greed to the curb. But since [our] Senate is overseen by Mr. Mitch Corruption himself, I fear this may not happen [until the old b'stard kicks the bucket]

  2. don't you hate it when you lose your account Bronze badge

    Just a fine?

    While the body bags stack up. Shakes head.

  3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    Don't stop with the app maker

    What about going after the drug companies, they'll find it harder to vanish without paying. Make them forfeit the rights to any drug they've pushed like this, so that it becomes a freely-available generic.

    1. Smooth Newt
      Happy

      Re: Don't stop with the app maker

      What about going after the drug companies, they'll find it harder to vanish without paying. Make them forfeit the rights to any drug they've pushed like this, so that it becomes a freely-available generic.

      Whilst your sentiment is first-rate, it is a misplaced incentive. Nothing stops corporate corruption so fast as a suit in a cell.

      Going after the company means that the shareholders - like you and me through our pension funds - get punished, but the executives who actually did the deed walk away, pockets bulging, especially as this usually takes years to come out.

      1. Robert Grant Silver badge

        Re: Don't stop with the app maker

        Nothing stops corporate corruption so fast as a suit in a cell.

        Sadly, it's rather easy to dress someone in a suit.

    2. iron Silver badge

      Re: Don't stop with the app maker

      Unfortunately that would probably reduce the R&D done to create new drugs which for some are required if they want to live something approaching a normal life.

      Oxycontin and Fentanyl get a very bad press due to abuses in the USA but my partner would have had no quality of life for the last 10 years without them. She's currently reducing her daily dose of Fentanyl gradually (-33% so far!), thankfully without any withdrawl symptoms.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Don't stop with the app maker

        Pharmacuetical companies' R&D spending is tiny.

        Don't fall for their BS on this.

        The big guys spend 1.5-2 X more on selling as they do on actual R&D.

        1. Sam Adams the Dog

          As in all else, Orwell is correct.

          "The big guys spend 1.5-2 X more on selling as they do on actual R&D."

          Yes, but all advertising has to more than pay for itself to be sensible. Without spending those big bucks on advertising, their ales would be lower, so their revenue would be lower; and therefore their research budget (which in pharma runs about 20% of revenue) would also be lower.

          Not, of course that I in any way condone the practice that this article is about.

    3. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Don't stop with the app maker

      As it says in TFA:

      "Although Pharma Co X was not named, Reuters reports it is understood to be Purdue Pharma, a pharmaceutical conglomerate facing intensive legal scrutiny over its drug Oxycontin" *

      They're already looking at the pharma companies. I suspect the case(s) against the pharma companies are still ongoing, where as the one against the software company was a little more cut and dried.

      * I'm sure I wasn't the only person who immediately thought of Purdue as the sort of scummy company that would likely be involved in this sort of thing.

  4. Chris G Silver badge

    Pharmaco/rrupt

    Pharmaceutical companies are no different to any other manufacturers, their bottom line is sales.

    Anything they can do to increase sales they will do, occasionally, they try not to get caught.

    A good example is over the counter proprietary treatments are are carefully designed in many cases to maintain stasis in a condition rather than cure it (think athletes foot for one example) if the medication provides a rapid cure the patient will stop buying it and doctors are encouraged to prescribe in a similar manner for many non life threatening ailments.

    I had an acquaintance who was a freelance drugs salesman, he worked for several large pharmacos before retiring very comfortably to a sunny beach, he had little good to say about his employers other than the money he made from them.

  5. TimMaher Bronze badge
    Unhappy

    Fallout

    Regrettably, this means that doctors may become sceptical about deploying valuable AI decision support software, in case it’s bent.

    What a sad outcome caused by sheer greed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fallout

      Doctors should be skeptical about AI software. As should everybody else.

    2. Alumoi

      Re: Fallout

      Every patient is unique, even if the ilness is well known. As a doctor you must take into consideration every aspect of the patient before prescribing the best treatment.

      'AI decision support software' (BTW, WTF is that?) is just a general guide, like GPS software. Do you blindly trust your GPS?

      Oh, wait...

      1. Robert Grant Silver badge

        Re: Fallout

        As a doctor you must take into consideration every aspect of the patient before prescribing the best treatment.

        Sounds like a doctor trying to do that would need as much support in making the decision as possible.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    NHS

    Welcome to the future.

  7. ratfox Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Holy Fucking Shit. Jail would be too sweet for these bastards.

    1. Mr Sceptical
      Gimp

      "Jail would be too sweet for these bastards"... maybe not?

      I dunno, I think being stuck in a cell with someone suffering from symptoms of opioid withdrawl + steroid abuse might be quite a just punishment.

      Alternatively: "Welcome Mr Pharnaco Exec. Your new cell mate is known as Bowling Ball Bag Bob. Enjoy!"

      Icon for their eventual prison 'outfit' --->

  8. fidodogbreath Silver badge
    Meh

    Who could have seen this coming?!?!?

    I am shocked to the very core of my being.*

    * Not really.

  9. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    The principle is widespread

    While there are howls of protest about software pushing a particular medicine, it is really not that different to people paying Google to get their product at the top of the search results. Which includes medical products and drugs (e.g. google "athletes foot treatment") The difference is perhaps that doctors ought to be intelligent enough to test the software's recommendation against what their medical training tells them is the best course of action.

  10. myhandler

    There must be one or two doctors involved who'd signed the Hippocratic oath.

    And the bastards are going to take over the UK in all manner of chlorinated ways. FFS.

  11. IGotOut

    Athletes foot treatment...

    Twice here it's been mentioned

    For me one thing fixed it very quickly

    Tea tree oil...99p a bottle from that place that CAREs for your BODY. Apply morning and night, mine cleared up in no time.

    Good for other skin aliments as well..

    1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: Athletes foot treatment...

      I believe I have several emails from you . . . in my Spam folder.

  12. Erik4872

    Is anyone in the US surprised?

    Practice Fusion's new owner will be able to pay the fine out of the change in their couch cushions. That's what bugs me...it seems like anyone owning a large enough business is immune from anything the general population has to abide by...and when they do get caught they can just write a tiny check and admit no wrongdoing.

    There are several US states that spend massive amounts of money policing illegal prescriptions and treating people for opioid addiction, and they're going to have a very hard time collecting anything. Parts of the US have been completely de-industrialized, leaving behind a lot of workers who have chronic pain and no way to earn a living anymore. Hence, the addition problem spurs on a huge circle of crime when people who need these drugs have no money or insurance, so can't get them legally, and a huge wave of medical costs to clean up the long-term damage. It's a very messy situation.

  13. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Targeted advertising.

    No need to worry about tracking. Cut out the middle man and advertise direct to the prescriber.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So who's going to prison for this?

    Oh. Wait. Was it one of those deferred prosecution agreements? The ones with no admission of liability but we pay the government a huge cash settlement for it all to just go away?

  15. Nunyabiznes Silver badge

    Not the only ones at fault

    Before the downvotes begin:

    Absolutely the pharma companies need to get a real penalty. Especially everyone involved in these shenanigans.

    However, there are plenty of doctors that should have known better. They should be getting the old stink eye too.

    And let's not forget the patients. You don't have to take painkillers if you are not in pain. For chrissakes take a little ownership of your health. I've had 3 major surgeries and have never used all of the painkillers prescribed. The doctors were surprised, but accepted that I could tolerate a little pain better than being whacked out of my mind by drugs. They were also surprised that I healed faster than normal. I'm guessing it was because my body was able to focus on healing itself rather than fighting the drugs. That's totally non-scientific, I know. YMMV.

    Here, at least, it seems that you are supposed to go through life in a cotton ball oblivious to life's little aches and pains. I just don't buy that.

    1. Alumoi

      Re: Not the only ones at fault

      What? Assume responsability for my actions? Are you nuts? This is America, buddy!

  16. Winkypop Silver badge
    Pirate

    The US health industry

    You can't live with it, and you can't live without it.

  17. jwa

    Don't drug pushers get sent to jail. Someone paid for this programme. Why no jail sentences, The CEO is responsible for what happens in the company. It seems only little people get punished.

  18. Neoc

    Someone explain to me why the Pharma people involved in this have not yet been indicted under drug-traficking charges? Correct me if I'm wrong, but what we have here are people trying to sell opioids to the public while bypassing the drug-control laws. Sounds like a typical pusher to me, so why hasn't the FBI charged them as such?

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