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Research Letter
November 17, 2020

Financial Penalties Imposed on Large Pharmaceutical Firms for Illegal Activities

Author Affiliations
  • 1Belk College of Business, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
  • 2The Lam Family College of Business, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, California
  • 3College of Business, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
JAMA. 2020;324(19):1995-1997. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.18740

Some pharmaceutical companies have received criticism for engaging in illegal activities, such as providing kickbacks and bribes, knowingly shipping adulterated or contaminated drugs to pharmacies, and marketing drugs for unapproved uses. This study examined financial penalties for illegal activities among large pharmaceutical firms in relation to annual revenues.

We collected data on financial penalties for pharmaceutical firms listed on the Global 500 or Fortune 1000 lists using procedures similar to Almashat et al.1 Consistent with prior research,2 we analyzed all firms that met inclusion criteria and appeared on the list for 7 years or more. All instances of financial penalties from state and federal settlements between January 2003 and December 2016 were obtained from the US Department of Justice, the US Securities and Exchange Commission, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and states’ attorneys general. Each settlement included the penalty amount and described the scope, type, and duration of the associated illegal activity. We secured missing data through Freedom of Information Act requests. Financial penalties were attributed to the settlement year.