Recently, biotechnology giant Amgen Inc. agreed to pay $762 million dollars to settle charges of criminal fines and civil claims that it engaged in several illegal marketing practices to increase sales of its drugs for unapproved uses to treat kidney disease and cancer. In addition, Amgen allegedly incorrectly reported and manipulated its prices for certain drugs including Aranesp, Enbrel, Epogen, Neipogen and Sensipar. Specifically, it was reported that the prescription drug, Aranesp, which was approved by the FDA for stimulating red blood cell production for anemia patients, was illegally marketed and prescribed to treat anemia and cancer and also prescribed at abnormally high doses. Furthermore, it was alleged that Amgen gave illegal kickbacks to medical professionals in exchange for submission of false claims to the Medicaid and Medicare programs. Amgen’s alleged activities defrauded the federal government and formed the basis for several claims against the company, including fraud and anti-kickback statues. One of whistleblowers, former Amgen employee, Kassie Westmoreland, claimed that Amgen gave “liquid kickbacks” to doctors. In total, 9 separate lawsuits were filed against the Company by whistleblowers. If you believe that your employer or a third party is engaging in Medicaid fraud, call (800) 893-9645 to confidentially speak with one of whistleblower attorneys. It is very important to be the first person to file a lawsuit as there are valuable potential benefits to be gained.
The scope of Amgen’s alleged activities was significant and ran for approximately ten years from 2001 to 2011. The New York State Attorney General stated that “[t]here are no excuses for illegally marketing off label drugs, offering kickbacks to health care professionals and ripping off the taxpayers by defrauding Medicaid and other programs.” The settlement monies will be used to offset the losses caused by Amegen’s alleged conduct. The US Attorney General stated that “[i]nstead of working to extend and enhance human lives, Amgen illegally pursued corporate profits while jeopardizing the safety of vulnerable consumers suffering from disease. Americans expect – and the law requires – much more.” These type of conduct is very serious and carries potential criminal liability as well. Not only will Amgen pay hundreds of millions, it pleaded guilty today to a misdemeanor charge in federal court – the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York – because it sold and transported a misbranded drug into interstate commerce. As a condition of the settlement, Amgen was required to sign a Corporate Integrity Agreement with the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Inspector General Office.
Aranesp was one of Amgen’s best sellers for a decade and contributed to Amgen’s rapid rise in the drug industry. The drug posted revenues of $2.3 billion in 2011, but its sales have steadily declined amid safety warnings and increased scrutiny caused by the lawsuits.
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