American healthcare company Abbott Laboratories and AbbVie have reached a $25m settlement with US authorities to resolve charges that they paid kickbacks to doctors to encourage them to prescribe cholesterol drug TriCor.
The deal resolves allegations made by whistleblower and former Abbott sales representative Amy Bergman in a lawsuit filed in 2009 in federal court in Philadelphia.
The petitioner alleged that, between 2006 and 2008, Abbott’s sales representatives offered physicians gift baskets, gift cards, and other items to entice them to prescribe TriCor to patients.
Reuters reported that AbbVie issued a statement in response to the settlement, saying: “The company determined it was in its best interest to resolve these allegations, rather than engage in protracted litigation, and focus on current business priorities.”
Abbott was also accused of engaging health care providers for consulting services and speaking engagements in an effort to induce or reward physicians for writing prescriptions for TriCor.
Additionally, the lawsuit alleged that the company resorted to unlawful methods for marketing and promoting the drug for unapproved purposes.
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The specific charge made against the company was that it marketed the drug off-label as a treatment to prevent, or reduce cardiovascular events and other cardiac health risk.
US Attorney McSwain said: “Federal law protects patients from medical providers who write prescriptions so they can enrich themselves, and from drug companies who do not play by the rules in their marketing and promotional efforts.
“Kickback schemes are a form of illegal pay-to-play business practices that have no place in our health care system; they interfere with physician-patient relationships and drive up the cost of health care.”
AbbVie was formed in 2013 after Abbott Laboratories (ABT) spun off its branded pharmaceutical business.