States Sue Amgen for Drug Sales Kickback Scheme
Fifteen states filed a lawsuit today against global biotechnology giant Amgen Inc. for allegedly engaging in fraudulent billing practices and illegally offering doctors cash, trips, and other perks to increase sales of one of its best-selling drugs.
The lawsuit was brought by the attorneys general of New York and 14 other states against California-based Amgen, one of the worldâ€™s largest biotech companies. The states say Amgen encouraged doctors to bill Medicaid, Medicare, and other third parties for Aranesp, a company drug that was available to public healthcare plans free of charge. The company also rewarded prescribing doctors with sham consulting contracts and lavish vacations for prescribing Aranesp, according to a Bloomberg News report.
Amgen is accused of acting along with the group purchasing organization International Nephrology Network and drug wholesaler ASD Healthcare to defraud state healthcare plans, according to the lawsuit.
â€œDrugs should be prescribed to patients on the basis of need, effectiveness and safety, not on a corporate giantâ€™s promise of an all-expense paid vacation,â€ said New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo in announcing the statesâ€™ lawsuit.
States involved in the lawsuit include California, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Tennessee, and Virginia, along with the District of Columbia.
Amgen Anemia Drug at Center of Controversy
Aranesp was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2001 to treat anemia associated with renal failure. In 2002, it was further approved to treat chemotherapy-induced anemia, Bloomberg said. The drug works by stimulating the production of red blood cells in the body.
Aranesp is a top earner for Amgen, earning $3.1 billion in sales last year, according to Bloomberg. However, sales of the drug have dropped since 2006, when its use was linked to increased risks of death and heart attacks in kidney patients.
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