Fourteen States Sue Amgen, Alleging Kickback Scheme To Promote Aranesp

Fourteen states and the District of Columbia have filed a false claims act suit against Amgen, accusing the biotech company of using kickbacks to sell its anemia drug Aranesp (darbepoetin alfa).

In court papers filed Oct. 30 in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, the states and D.C. alleged that the Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based company used cash and a fraudulent billing scheme to entice physicians to prescribe Aranesp. The 12-count suit stems from claims made by a former Amgen employee who turned whistleblower in 2006.

The whistleblower, who worked for the company from 2002 until 2005, claims that the company deliberately overfilled shipments of Aranesp and then encouraged physicians to bill government health care programs for the overage, a practice referred to as a “liquid kickback.” The whistleblower also contended that Amgen had strong ties to a professional organization called the International Nephrology Network and used medical conferences sponsored by the group as a chance to wine and dine physicians and office managers, often giving sizeable honoraria to those attending. Office managers who promoted the drug to administrators at other physician practices could receive additional honoraria as well, the suit claimed.

Participating in the suit are California, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Tennessee, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

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