Drug Makers Accused of Aiding in Deaths
By MARK SCOLFORO, Associated Press Writer
HARRISBURG, Pa. -
A psychiatrist has filed a federal lawsuit alleging that children have been harmed and even killed by the misuse of drugs he blames on aggressive marketing by drug manufacturers.
Dr. Stefan P. Kruszewski claims he was fired in July 2003 from a consulting job at the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare because he reported "fraud and other violations of civil and criminal law constituting pervasive abuses."
Kruszewski accuses the drug companies of distorting statistics, violating regulations and exaggerating the effect of their psychotropic products practices he says have victimized juvenile wards of the state, mental patients and prisoners.
Allegedly "corrupt practices" by drug companies described in the suit include overmedication of patients, fraudulent billing, abuses of Pennsylvania's involuntary commitment law and "mistreatment of children resulting in deaths in Pennsylvania, Texas and Oklahoma."
Don Bailey, Kruszewski's lawyer, said patient confidentiality rules prevented giving specific examples of patients who have died as a result of the alleged practices.
Defendants include Public Welfare Secretary Estelle B. Richman; Columbus Medical Services, the consulting company Kruszewski worked for; and drug makers Pfizer Inc., Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline and Eli Lilly & Co. The drugs at issue include Paxil, Neurontin, Gortan, Seroquel, Topmax, Risperdal, Trileptal and Zyprexa.
The suit was filed Thursday in Harrisburg federal court. The defendants or their spokesmen either did not return phone messages or declined comment Tuesday.
The suit says Kruszewski conducted medical reviews and appeals for Public Welfare and served as a medical-psychiatric consultant for the department's Bureau of Program Integrity.
Kruszewski seeks damages of more than $1 million for future lost wages and for allegedly being deprived of his right to speak out on matters of public concern without retaliation. He also alleges fraud, defamation and conspiracy.
Kruszewski did not return a phone message seeking comment on Tuesday.