The Law Project for Psychiatric Rights is eager to provide advice or assistance to US citizens who may wish to sue their physicians for prescribing off-label psychiatric drugs to children, said lawyer James Gottstein in an interview with Mad In America. Gottstein was speaking after giving a presentation at the National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy conference in Seattle this week.
In his presentation, Gottstein pointed out that the federal government has settled numerous lawsuits with drug companies in which the companies admitted improperly promoting the prescribing of psychiatric medications off-label to children and youth. Yet the physicians who were actually doing the off-label prescribing of these medications that are not approved for use in children and youth never faced any penalties. Gottstein said he believes those physicians can and should be sued for submitting “false claims” to Medicaid — essentially, he argued, they’ve been billing the government for prescribing drugs in situations which the government itself has already determined are not legal or appropriate in most cases.
Gottstein said the massive financial settlements with drug companies have done little to curtail these practices, because they’re seen as just the cost of doing business in the pharmaceutical industry. “From my perspective, it’s just a wink and nod game between the government and drug companies,” said Gottstein. He suggested that, conversely. just a few successful lawsuits against individual doctors could change prescribing patterns around the country.
PsychRights has taken a number of such cases against physicians and pharmacies to court over the past five years under the False Claims Act, a Civil War-era statute that allows citizens to sue “on behalf of” the government. Though the courts have so far “actually agreed with the whole concept,” said Gottstein, certain judges have also betrayed an attitude of, “The federal government knows all about the fraud and doesn’t care, so why should we?” Nevertheless, these cases have now clarified key issues and laid the groundwork for admissability, said Gottstein, and he’d like to provide assistance to more US citizens who might want to consider launching such cases. He noted that under the Act, the plaintiffs get a percentage of any settlements. “I still think this is a viable approach,” said Gottstein.
The slide presentation from Gottstein’s talk and complete set of legal backgrounders are available on the website of the Law Project for Psychiatric Rights. Gottstein clarified that he is “on hiatus” from taking on much legal work until March of 2015, but is still willing to provide advice and assistance in the meantime.
PsychRights’ Medicaid Fraud Initiative Against Psychiatric Drugging of Children & Youth (Law Project for Psychiatric Rights)