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Drugmaker's marketing of Enbrel is investigated

  Amgen Inc. markets the drug Enbrel for treatment of severe psoriasis.  Now it is accused of attempting to market the drug more widely, despite the fact that the drug carries significant  and dangerous side-effects and dangers.

The Associated Press reported yesterday that two formel Amgen, Inc. sales representatives claimed they were fired for refusing to market the drug Enbrel in an unethical and illegal manner.  The drug is intended and was approved solely for treating severe psoriasis.  A lawyer for the State of New Jersey claims that memos and other Amgen materials support the claim that the health of some patients was jeopardized by Amgen's marketing effort.

Amgen's sales force was encouraged to press dermatologists to prescribe the drug inappropriately--even to patients with mild forms of psoriasis, according to one of the drug reps (who was fired in 2005, despite 8 consecutive years of "outstanding" performance reviews).  The drug has not been approved for treatment mild forms of the disease because it can cause severe side effects and even fatal infections, according to the AP.  Treatment with Enbrel can cost up to $26,000.00 per year, per patient, making the sale of the drug a very profitable line for Amgen.   While a physician can prescribe an approved medication for any purpose--including a purpose not approved by the FDA--it is illegal for a manufacturer to market a drug for a non-approved use.   Representatives of Amgen deny any wrong-doing.

In the meantime, authorities in Washington, D.C., acknowledge that the Food and Drug Administration, American consumers' only protection against tainted or inappropriate drugs and food, "is barely hanging on by its fingertips" due to inadequate funding and a lack of skilled scientific expertise.  According to the science board, the two units of the FDA that regulate food are in "a state of crisis", while every knowledgeable observer warns that the FDA is not adequately staffed or funded to regulate massive imports from China.

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