Reuter’s news reports that pharmaceutical conglomerate AstraZeneca will pay $7.9 million to settle claims brought by the U.S. Justice Department that the drug maker engaged in a kickback scheme involving its well-known heart medication Nexium. The settlement stems from an AstraZeneca whistleblower lawsuit that was filed in 2010 on behalf of the government by two former executives for the manufacturer. The lawsuit was filed in Delaware federal court and had remained sealed until February 2015. As part of the settlement, the two AstraZeneca whistleblowers will share $1.42 million.
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AstraZeneca Whistleblower Lawsuit
The whistleblowers alleged top executives for the company led a scheme to give $100 million in Nexium price concessions to pharmacy benefits manager Medco Health Solutions, the company’s largest commercial purchaser, in exchange for the drug’s preferred placement on Medco’s promotion, direct purchase of the drug, and list of approved medications.
The lawsuit further alleges the 10 percent discount Medco began to receive on the drug in 2004 violated federal anti-kickback laws. AstraZeneca allegedly failed to disclose the discount, which would have resulted in a lower “best price” for Nexium subject to reimbursement under Medicaid, Medicare, and other government healthcare programs. Instead, AstraZeneca allegedly disguised the discounts with price concessions on more “mature drugs” such as Plendil, Toprol XL, and Prilosec, authorities said.
The lawsuit also claims Nexium sales in the U.S. totaled approximately $21 billion during the period in question, and alleges the Nexium kickbacks directly violated a corporate integrity agreement signed by the company in 2003 when it settled claims that it illegally marketing Zoladex. The company agreed to pay a $64 million criminal fine and entered into a civil settlement with the U.S. government for an additional $266 million involving the pricing, sale, and marketing of Zoladex.
A spokeswoman for AstraZeneca maintained the company is denying the allegations despite its agreement to pay almost $8 million to settle the whistleblower lawsuit.
Have Questions Regarding an AstraZeneca Whistleblower Lawsuit?
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