Complaint filed by 15 states against anemia drug manufacturer

Nick Rees Nov. 3, 2009, 3:57pm


BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and 14 other state attorneys general have filed a joint complaint in federal court to intervene against medical providers alleged to have used kickbacks to increase sales of an anemia drug.

Pharmaceutical manufacturer Amgen, speciality group purchasing organization International Nephrology Network and wholesaler ASD Healthcare are alleged to have knowingly offered illegal kickbacks to medical provides to increase sales of Aranesp, Amgen's anemia drug.

"Taxpayers lose out when medical providers and pharmaceutical manufacturers operate outside of the boundaries of the law to pad bottom lines," Coakley said.

"Our office will continue to work in collaboration with our partners in state and federal law enforcement to identify kickback schemes in the health care market to ensure that Medicaid funds are not being obtained improperly."

Aranesp is an injectable drug developed and manufactured by Amgen that stimulates and boosts the production of red blood cells in the body. It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2001 to treat anemia that is associated with chronic renal failure and in 2002 to treat chemotherapy-induced anemia.

Total sales of Aranesp have reached more than $11 billion since the drug's introduction in the marketplace.

The companies are alleged to have encouraged medical providers to bill third-party payers, including state Medicaid programs, for free Aranesp the companies offered.

Amgen is also alleged to have conspired with INN and ASD Healthcare to offer medical providers illegal kickbacks including so-called "honoraria" to attend all-expenses paid meeting with the intention and effect of increasing Aranesp sales and converting new providers to Aranesp from competitor drugs.

The defendants' illegal inducements to increase Aranesp's sales caused medical providers to falsely certify to state Medicaid programs that the providers were in full compliance with federal and state anti-kickback statues that prohibit bribes to medical providers, the complaint alleges.

Compliance with the anti-kickback statutes is a condition of payment by the Medicare and Medicaid programs. As a result of the illegal inducements, the complaint alleges, the defendants caused thousands of ineligible claims for Aranesp to be paid and caused millions of dollars in damages to state Medicaid programs.

Coakley and the state of Massachusetts are joined in the complaint by California, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Tennessee and Virginia.

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