Amgen Inc Will Pay to Settle Whistleblower Allegations of Kickbacks for Selling Anemia Drug
On Tuesday, April 16th, the Department of Justice announced that Amgen, Inc, the world’s largest biotechnology company, violated the False Claims Act and will pay $24.9 million to settle allegations in a qui tam (whistleblower) suit that they offered kickbacks to long-term care companies to put patients on their anemia drug, Aranesp.
The biotech company allegedly paid long-term care pharmacies to switch Medicare and Medicaid patients to an anemia drug, Aranesp, which many of the patients did not need. The companies that allegedly received kickback payments are Omnicare Inc, Kindred Healthcare Inc, and PharMerica Corp.
“We will continue to pursue pharmaceutical companies that pay kickbacks to long-term care pharmacy providers to influence drug-prescribing decisions,” Stuart Delery, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Division, said in a statement.
“Patients in skilled nursing facilities deserve care that is free of improper financial influences,” he added.
According to the DOJ, Amgen paid kickbacks in the form of performance-based rebates ties to market share and sales volume, and actively encouraged nursing home staff and pharmacists to give the anemia drug to patients who did not have the condition the drug was developed to treat.
Aranesp was developed specifically to treat anemia associated with chronic renal failure for those undergoing chemotherapy.
Although the company has agreed to pay settlement money in response to the whistleblower allegations, Amgen has not admitted guilt or liability as part of the settlement.
This is the fourth qui tam, or whistleblower, lawsuit brought against Amgen recently. Another lawsuit has been settled, and two others dismissed.
The lawsuit was filed in the District Court for the District of South Carolina under the whistleblower provision in the False Claims Act.
In December, a federal judge in Brooklyn accepted a guilty plea from Amgen that they had misbranded their drug Aranesp, not only urging long-term care facility staff to give the drug to patients who did not need it, but also recommending higher doses than the Food and Drug Administration recommended. The case went to federal court because it involved interstate commerce. Amgen agreed to pay $762 million to resolve their civil and criminal liability arising from the sale and promotion of certain drugs.
Under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, it is illegal for a pharmaceutical manufacturer to introduce a drug into the market place that they intend for “off-label” use, ie for uses or doses not approved by the FDA.
The settlement is the largest single criminal and civil False Claims Act settlement involving a biotechnology company in the United States.
The Strom Law Firm Protects Whistleblowers in South Carolina
The False Claims Act, also known as the Whistle Blower Act or a qui tam action, is intended to encourage people to come forward with information and assist the government in stopping the waste of Government funds.
Common whistleblower actions include:
- Medicare fraud,
- defense contractor fraud, and
- other kinds of fraud.
To bring a qui tam action under the statute, an individual must have personal knowledge and actual evidence of fraud. Successful qui tam claimants will be rewarded a portion of the money the government recovers.
If you have direct knowledge of fraud against the government and believe you have a qui tam case, whether it is against a for-profit long term care facility, a technology corporation, or financial institution, the attorneys at the Strom Law Firm can help. We offer free, confidential consultations so you can discuss the facts of your case with impunity. Contact us today. 803.252.4800.