Bryan Cohen Jan. 24, 2014, 3:31pm

OLYMPIA, Wash. (Legal Newsline) - Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a motion on Wednesday to intervene in a civil lawsuit against Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation alleging the company paid kickbacks to a New York-based pharmacy.

Novartis allegedly paid kickbacks to BioScrip Inc. to increase sales of Novartis' drug, Exjade. Exjade is a drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of chronic iron overload due to blood transfusions. Novartis allegedly began paying kickbacks in 2007 after it became concerned patients were no longer using Exjade because of side effects.

"When companies don't play by the rules, they put valuable Medicaid dollars at risk," Ferguson said. "Washington and other states want these companies to know we are paying attention and will fight vigorously for the vulnerable patients they serve."

Washington joined New York and eight other states in announcing they were intervening against Novartis when the case was unsealed on January 8. California also filed a separate motion to intervene.

The lawsuit alleges Novartis used its control of Exjade prescriptions, in addition to various discounts and rebates, to pay kickbacks to BioScrip. BioScrip allegedly made thousands of phone calls to Exjade patients to downplay the side effects of the drug.

Earlier in January, Ferguson announced a state and federal settlement with BioScrip. Washington received approximately $98,000 of the $15 million settlement that resolved Medicaid and Medicare claims related to the alleged scheme. Washington was one of the six states leading the settlement negotiations with BioScrip.

More News