Court fines Boehringer $1M for 'gross inadequacy' of record keeping

The shift to digital documents has solved some record-keeping difficulties, but also created a whole new set of opportunities for accidental or malicious errors. Boehringer Ingelheim learnt the consequences of such mix-ups this week when a U.S. court fined it almost $1 million for failing to preserve "countless" files.

A litany of information technology failings prompted the fine. Boehringer was asked to present documents by attorneys prosecuting 1,700 cases against its blood thinner Pradaxa, but the judge now overseeing the consolidated lawsuits was unimpressed by its response. The judge ruled the German drugmaker "allowed countless records to be destroyed" by failing to ensure text messages were kept. Company phones were programmed to automatically delete messages, and texts on employees' personal devices were erased too.

The text message snafu is one of several problems Boehringer has cited to explain its inability to provide the documents prosecutors want. Boehringer said a hard drive was accidentally erased during a routine Windows 7 update. File availability was also hindered by the failure of its IT department to give a third-party vendor full access to a storage drive. The judge said the court has been "exceedingly patient" while Boehringer works through these issues, but the cumulative effect of the delays forced him to take action.

Boehringer must pay $931,000. While the judge acknowledged the fine will have no significant impact on Boehringer's financials, he still issued it in an attempt to show the drugmaker timely compliance with the court's orders is mandatory. If Boehringer continues to exasperate the court with its slow responses, the judge is willing to take further action. In a statement to Bloomberg, Boehringer acknowledged there had been "unintentional and unexpected problems," but said plaintiffs had still accessed a wide range of files.

- read Bloomberg's coverage
- here's Pharmalot's take
- check out the ruling (PDF)