DOJ Investigating Pharma Companies Over Free Services

The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating whether drug manufacturers Sanofi, Gilead, and Biogen illegally provided doctors and patients with free and reduced-cost services.

The services under investigation include assisting patients with copays, providing disease education, and sending health-care professionals to train patients in the use of specific drugs. Pharmaceutical companies claim these services are beneficial to both doctors and patients. Critics, however, allege that these programs provide illegal incentives for doctors to prescribe certain treatments, violating federal anti-kickback laws.

Amgen, Bayer, and Eli Lilly also face whistleblower lawsuits related to provision of these services, while California is investigating AbbVie for similar practices.

“It’s of particular concern when decisions about medical care are being driven by kickbacks and inducements as opposed to what’s in the best interest of patients,” said California State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, who is leading the state’s investigation into AbbVie. Several of the company’s practices are under scrutiny, including providing staff to help health-care providers obtain reimbursement for the injectable arthritis drug adalimumab.

Pharmaceutical companies dispute that the services constitute illegal kickbacks. AbbVie, Bayer, and Eli Lilly argue that the whistleblower and state lawsuits are without merit, while Sanofi, Gilead, and Biogen say that they are cooperating with the investigations.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, September 21, 2018.