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Major Power Shift Is Taking Place At Notorious Pharmaceutical Known For Doubling The Price Of Lethal Drug ‘Seconal’


The infamous Valeant Pharmaceuticals Inc. announced this Monday that they have started searching for a new CEO to replace J. Michael Pearson.

Valeant also announced William A. Ackman, the CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management, has joined their board of directors. An updated report on the accounting and financials of Valeant was also released with the announcement.

Valeant is known for manufacturing the lethal drug ‘Seconal’ which is used for civilian assisted suicide. However, Valeant has generated a very negative public image in the past few years.


Currently, Valeant is regarded as the poster boy of a greedy pharmaceutical corporation taking advantage of people’s desperation.

In 2015 Valeant came under fire when it doubled the price of ‘Seconal’, increasing it from $1,500 to $3,000. The increase not only dropped Valeant shares by 85% since the last year but also resulted in a federal inquiry by the U.S. government.

Pearson will remain as CEO until a new candidate is appointed, while Ackman who holds 9.0% of Valeant shares joined the board effective immediately. Some believe the power shift at Valeant is taking place due to the federal inquiry.

“It’s been a privilege to lead Valeant for the past eight years,” said current Valeant CEO J. Michael Pearson. “While I regret the controversies that have adversely impacted our business over the past several months, I know that Valeant is a strong and resilient company, and I am committed to doing everything I can to ensure a smooth transition to new leadership.”

Valeant Price Hike Inquiry

The price of Seconal was increased by Valeant one month after the state of California made physician assisted suicide lawful in California in 2014.

Terminally ill patients who are in pain and want to end their lives will have to pay a hefty price to gain a peaceful death. The price increase has been deemed unnecessary since chemically the drug is still the same, and has not undergone any modifications or enhancements.

Other than Seconal, Valeant also bought other drugs and increased their price by 500%. The actions have also inspired the U.S. government to launch an investigation into the trade practices of Valeant along with several other pharmaceuticals. The U.S. Senate sent a letter to Valeant demanding their explanation on the price hike.

California Aid-In-Dying Law

The new law being passed in California, also known as the ‘Aid-in-dying’ law, will take effect in June 2016. The bill for the law was previously passed in 2015 and is known as the ‘End of Life Option Act’. The law stipulates a person suffering from some affliction over the age of 18 can opt to end their life if they want.

Life can be ended using a prescribed drug which provides peaceful and painless death. A licensed physician has to be present for the approval and administration of the drug.

The drug can only be prescribed by a physician for patients who meet all the requirements of the California bill. Only drugs with USDEA certification can be used for physician-assisted suicide.

The particular lethal dosage of the drug is not readily available. Other variants of the drugs i.e., lower doses are available over the counter.

To attain the drug a physician has to submit a qualifying patient’s written request to the State Department of Public Health. The request is accompanied by a physician checklist and compliance form.

The drug is then ordered by the US Department of Public Health and 30 days after the request has been submitted.

Only people who are terminally ill but have the proper mental capacity to make a life or death decision can choose the law. The U.S. State Department of Public Health also needs to be notified in case of an assisted suicide.

What Is Seconal?

Seconal or secobarbital, is a barbiturate which causes depression of the central nervous system. It decreases motor activity of neurons in the brain. It was originally developed in 1930’s as a sleeping pill.

But fell out of public favour when it led several high profile deaths. For example, Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe died due to acute barbiturate overdose.

However, Seconal is the drug of choice while quickening the death of a fatally ill person in pain e.g., stage 4 cancer patients. Seconal gives a quick and gentle death.

It makes the patient fall asleep without any complications which leads to death. In 2009, about a 100 capsules of Seconal were only worth less than $200. Seconal capsules produced by Valeant have an oval shape and orange color. A single capsule contains 100 milligrams of Seconal (Secobarbital Sodium).

Low dose variants of Seconal are readily available at a majority of drugstores. But even they require prescriptions from physicians.

Seconal can be administered to a patient both orally and through injections. About 2-10 grams of Seconal can lead to death. Within 15 minutes of administration all electrical activity in the brain of the patient ceases, leading to a clinical death.

Valeant may have tried to capitalize on the growing need for suicide pills but the plan majorly backfired on them. Not only did their stocks plummet, they are now facing a federal inquiry resulting in the resignation of their CEO.

Meanwhile, the California End of Life bill has ensured that only the deserving receive the suicide pills. It also helps that the law was formulated after extensive scrutiny, ensuring there is no chance of misuse.