If any “corporate person” could be labeled a bully and a miscreant (and there are many contenders for those titles), it would be Allergan. This global pharmaceutical behemoth has employed the tactic of tax inversion in order to avoid contributing to the welfare of the nation, and engaged in price gouging to the tune of 10 percent a year. It has engaged in illegal marketing tactics (contributing to the opioid crisis), defrauded the federal Medicare program, and engaged in schemes to stifle competition.

Last month, Allergan filed a lawsuit against three small drug companies (one of which lists a single employee working in a 3500 square foot facility). In its complaint, Allegan alleges that its tiny competitors are engaging in the unlawful manufacture and sale of unapproved new medications and engaging in false advertising. A company statement claims that

Biopharmaceutical companies like Allergan have a duty to put the safety of their patients first…we have brought suit against companies that we believe stand in stark contrast to that commitment. Imprimis Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Prescriber’s Choice, Inc., and Sincerus Florida, LLC do not follow the established compounding regulations, engage in false and misleading advertising, and ultimately, put patients and physicians at risk by selling unapproved new drugs.”

The hypocrisy of that statement is beyond the pale. Allergan itself pled guilty in 2010 to charges of illegally promoting off-label uses for Botox®, marketing it as a pain reliever and a treatment for juvenile cerebral palsy. Those sales tactics included workshops for physicians, showing them how to make more money with Botox®, and helping their assistants in getting reimbursement for unapproved off-label uses.

Allergan wound up paying fines and penalties totaling $600 million. More recently, Allergan was a named defendant in a lawsuit brought by the State of Ohio over claims that it and other drug manufacturers “spread false and deceptive statements about the risks and benefits of long-term opioid use.” In November 2015, not long after the company paid $125 million to settle charges of Medicare fraud, the Department of Justice filed criminal charges against W. Carl Reichel, CEO of Allergan subsidiary Warner Chilcott, for conspiracy to violate anti-kickback laws.

Today, despite a public warning from the FDA, Allergan continues to market Viberzi, a medication intended to treat diarrhea associated with irritable bowel syndrome, to patients at risk of serious injury or death because of having their gallbladders removed.

Overall, Allergan is the poster child for everything that is wrong with the U.S. for-profit, market-driven health care system. In a press release, Imprimis CEP Mark Baum pointed out, “Allergan’s illegal, abusive, and anticompetitive actions aimed at maintaining its obscenely high drug prices reveal its true socially unconscious values.”

K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues. In addition to writing for The Ring of Fire, he is the author of two published novels: Tamanous Cooley, a darkly comic environmental twist on Dante's Inferno, and The Missionary's Wife, a story of the conflict between human nature and fundamentalist religious dogma. When not engaged in journalistic or literary pursuits, K.J. works as an entertainer and film composer.