All part of an era eh, Andy?
On the 21st December GSK, the company who pay fines and settlements whilst never admitting to any wrong-doing, paid $21.5 million to plaintiffs who had claimed that GSK had forced them to pay higher prices for antidepressant Wellbutrin SR, also known and branded as the smoking cessation drug, Zyban.
The settlement resolves [ahem] allegations that GSK violated antitrust, consumer fraud and consumer protection laws and made an unjust profit from the sale of Wellbutrin.
Way to go Glaxo!
For those who don't know, last year GlaxoSmithKline, the company that want us to believe that their violations are a thing of the past, entered a guilty plea into, amongst other things, the off-label promotion of drugs. One such drug was Wellbutrin. Glaxo were subsequently fined a massive $3 billion.
So, not only were they promoting this antidepressant cum smoking cessation drug to people it should never have been prescribed to, they were also forcing those buying it to pay higher prices.
What a great scam.
Possible GSK Mantra
1. Promote drug to population that it is not indicated for
2. Charge consumers more for it so we have the monopoly.
The settlement also resolves [ahem] allegations that Glaxo used delaying tactics which included filing "sham patent infringement lawsuits, to keep generic competitors to Wellbutrin and Zyban off the market and force consumers to pay monopoly prices for the drugs."
Glaxo's CEO, Andrew Witty is no stranger to Wellbutrin. I wrote about his involvement with Wellbutrin here.
Glaxo Wellcome'sVP-General Manager of Marketing Andrew Witty, as he was known between 1997/98, worked very closely with prescription drug ads on TV. This is known as DTC or Direct to Consumer advertising.
In August 1997 the US Food and Drug Administration [FDA] relaxed its rules on DTC, it basically meant that the FDA were giving carte blanche to the pharmaceutical industry whereby they could promote their products in TV ads without giving detailed medical information on the indications, potential side effects, or proper use. 
Witty was quick to pounce. Why wouldn't he? DTC is lucrative for the pharmaceutical industry, well, it is in America and New Zealand as these are the only two countries that allow TV ads for prescription medication.
Witty added more products in 1997 with Glaxo's new anti-smoking pill Zyban, [buproprion] which got an estimated $55 million in support (the brand is even got TV teaser ads prior to its launch)
For those who don't know, Zyban is also in fact Wellbutrin which is an antidepressant that Glaxo marketed off-label for a whole host of reasons that it was never indicated for. See back story here and it will show you how Glaxo hired a famous radio personality to promote Wellbutrin for increasing someone's orgasmic potential.
If we use the generic name, buproprion, rather than the brand names it gets slightly easier to follow.
You see bupropion is used to treat major depressive disorder and seasonal affective disorder and it is also used to help people stop smoking by reducing cravings and other withdrawal effects.
So, in 1997, Witty pushed Zyban, Wellbutrin, call it what you will, onto the TV screens and into the homes of millions of Americans. He was in actual fact pushing an antidepressant onto an unsuspecting public.
Here's a Zyban ad from 1997, this is one that Witty would have been behind as Glaxo Wellcome'sVP-General Manager of Marketing. What I find remarkable about this ad is that they do not distinguish the two brand names as being practically the same. The only warning they off is, "Don't take Zyban if you are taking Wellbutrin" - Surely it would have been morally ethical to tell the consumer, "If you take Zyban and Wellbutrin together you will actually be overdosing on the active ingredient, bupropion." But hey, why would a pharmaceutical company, like Glaxo, wish to inform its consumers that a drug that could help you quit smoking was really an antidepressant?
More on the $21.5 billion settlement here [subscription needed]