Amgen pleads guilty, to settle misbranding case for $762 million
Biotech giant Amgen Inc. pleaded guilty to a federal misdemeanor of misbranding its anemia drug Aranesp and has agreed to pay $762 million in fines and penalties.
The Thousand Oaks company said it had reached a preliminary settlement of federal criminal and civil investigations last year and had already set aside about $780 million to resolve several related cases.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn said a federal judge is scheduled to hold another hearing on the settlement Wednesday.
Amgen said the "plea and sentence remain subject to judicial review and approval" and it expects to resolve the related civil and criminal matters once that process is complete.
Federal prosecutors accused Amgen of promoting Aranesp for uses that weren't approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a common claim brought by government officials against big pharmaceutical companies.
Amgen's shares were up 7 cents to $89.57 in mid-session trading Tuesday.
Aranesp, which is used primarily to treat anemia in cancer patients, generated sales of $2.3 billion last year. But sales of Amgen's anemia treatments have slumped in recent quarters due partly to safety concerns.
In recent years, federal prosecutors have aggressively pursued whistleblower fraud cases against large drug makers and won major settlements.
In July, GlaxoSmithKline agreed to plead guilty to federal charges and pay $3 billion in the largest healthcare-fraud settlement in U.S. history.
However, some critics say the government's enforcement efforts don't go far enough since the company executives involved usually don't face significant penalties or jail time.