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Pharmaceutical firm fined over drug sale

The US justice department has imposed a $1.6bn (£1bn) fine on US pharmaceutical company Abbott Laboratories for mis-selling a mood-stabilising drug.

The drug, known as Depakote, was improperly marketed as being effective in treating dementia and autism, when in fact it was only recognised by regulators for helping with epilepsy and bipolar disorder.

One of the lawyers who provided legal services for individuals at the centre of the scandal said that Abbott had purposely and specifically targeted particularly vulnerable groups of people throughout the scam, namely children and elderly people.

This was partly achieved by dedicated sales teams being sent to nursing homes around the country, already with the knowledge that Depakote was not proven to have aided the conditions it claimed to.

One factor that contributed to such a large fine being ordered was that the company apparently sanctioned use of this sales drive between 1998 and 2006, and possibly beyond then. This long-term complicity, US Attorney Timothy Heaphy explained, made the matter far more serious than if it had been the actions of one or two rogue representatives.

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