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Justice Department accuses maker of Celexa and Lexapro of fraud

The Justice Department on February 25, 2009, charged Forest Laboratories with fraud for illegally marketing popular anti-depressants Celexa and Lexapro for unapproved uses in children and teens.  While doctors are free to prescribe FDA-approved drugs for "off-label" or unapproved treatments, drug manufacturers may not promote these off-label uses. 

The Justice Department claims Forest Laboratories did promote the drugs to doctors for use in children, without disclosing to physicians its data suggesting the drugs were ineffective and perhaps dangerous for children and teens.  The Department accused the manufacturer of persuading doctors to prescribe the drugs to kids by telling doctors a "half-truth" that failed to disclose negative test results.  The government also accused Forest of paying "kickbacks" to prescribing doctors.  Lexapro had sales of $2.3 billion dollars in 2008.  According to company insiders, Forest executives were aware of two prominent scientific studies showing that the active agreement in these drugs was not effective in treating childhood depression.

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