Big Pharma Making Big Money With Illegal Kickbacks? Drug Companies Face More Scrutiny After News Of Humira Lawsuit

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Evie Fordham Politics and Health Care Reporter
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Pharmaceutical giants like AbbVie and Gilead Sciences are facing scrutiny for allegedly providing illegal kickbacks to doctors and patients to boost drug sales — and AbbVie is in the middle of a lawsuit from California’s insurance regulator over insurance fraud.

Gilead Sciences, Sanofi and Biogen are being probed by federal prosecutors to see if their “free services to doctors and patients” were actually illegal kickbacks meant to boost sales, reported The Wall Street Journal.

AbbVie shares fell nearly 3 percent after news of the suit broke Tuesday, reported CNBC. The California Department of Insurance’s suit centers on the drug company’s AbbVie Nurse Ambassadors, a program that helps out patients who have been prescribed Humira to treat their arthritis.

Chicago-based AbbVie “only provides the Ambassadors as long as the physicians continue to prescribe AbbVie’s drug instead of selecting another course of treatment,” the suit alleges, according to CNBC.

The California lawsuit also claims AbbVie “provided staff” to expedite paperwork for Humira payment reimbursements, reported TheWSJ.

The suit could be the biggest case of insurance fraud in the state insurance regulator’s history since private carriers have shelled out roughly $1.2 billion in Humira pharmacy claims in California since 2013, reported CNBC. Humira is the highest-selling prescription drug in the U.S. as of 2017, according to Axios.

AbbVie refutes the allegations that it violated federal anti-kickback laws meant to guard against companies paying to boost sales of medical products that are reimbursed by government programs.

“AbbVie provides a number of support services for patients, once they are prescribed Humira, that both educate and assist patients with their therapy,” AbbVie spokeswoman Adelle Infante said according to CNBC. “They in no way replace or interfere with interactions between patients and their healthcare providers.” (RELATED: Trump Gets Behind Senate Bill That Would End Gag Orders Against Pharmacists Sharing Money-Saving Info)

AbbVie could also be in trouble for reportedly giving gifts like cash, trips and more to health care providers “as incentives to prescribe the drug,” reported CNBC.

California-based Gilead Sciences faced scrutiny from U.S. attorneys in Pennsylvania in 2017 over services connected to its hepatitis C drugs, according to TheWSJ.

French drugmaker Sanofi says it is cooperating with U.S. attorneys in New York who requested documents pertaining to a now-defunct program connected with its diabetes products in 2017, according to TheWSJ.

Follow Evie on Twitter @eviefordham.

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