Biotechnology company Amgen Inc. has agreed to pay $24.9 million to resolve charges under the False Claims Act that it was involved in a kickback scheme with long-term care pharmacy providers, the U.S. Department of Justice said.
The settlement with Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based Amgen, announced Tuesday, settles charges it paid kickbacks to Cincinnati-based Omnicare Inc., and PharMerica Corp. and Kindred Healthcare Inc., both based in Louisville, Ky., in return for implementing “therapeutic interchange” programs designed to switch Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries from a competitor drug to its own product, the Justice Department said.
The government charged the kickbacks took the form of “performance-based rebates” that were tied to market share or volume thresholds. The DOJ said that as part of the therapeutic interchange programs, Amgen distributed material to consulting pharmacists and nursing home staff encouraging the off-label use of Aranesp, a drug used to treat anemia associated with chronic renal failure, for patients who did not have the condition.
The DOJ said the civil settlement resolves a lawsuit filed under a whistle-blower provision of the False Claims Act that was filed in U.S. District Court in Columbia, S.C.
The DOJ said only allegations were settled by the agreement, and that there has been no determination of liability in the case.
“We will continue to pursue pharmaceutical companies that pay kickbacks to long-term care pharmacy providers to influence drug prescribing decisions,” said Stuart F. Delery, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's civil division, in a statement. “Patients in skilled nursing facilities deserve care that is free of improper financial influences.”