Amgen Inc. has agreed to pay the United States $24.9 million to settle allegations that it violated the False Claims Act, the Justice Department announced April 16, according to a US Justice Department statement.
The settlement resolves allegations that Amgen paid kickbacks to long-term care pharmacy providers Omnicare Inc., PharMerica Corporation, and Kindred Healthcare Inc. in return for implementing therapeutic interchange programs that were designed to switch Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries from a competitor drug to Amgen’s Aranesp. The government alleged that the kickbacks took the form of performance-based rebates that were tied to market-share or volume thresholds. The government further alleged that, as part of the therapeutic interchange program, Amgen distributed materials to consultant pharmacists and nursing home staff encouraging the use of Aranesp for patients who did not have anemia associated with chronic renal failure, the statement reports.
“By this agreement we are making important strides in holding drug manufacturers accountable for fraudulent and abusive practices not only in South Carolina but nationwide,” said William Nettles, US Attorney for the District of South Carolina.
This civil settlement resolves a lawsuit filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provision of the False Claims Act, which allows private citizens with knowledge of false claims to bring civil actions on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery. The False Claims Act suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, and is captioned United States ex rel. Kurnik v. Amgen Inc., et al.