A long time employee of Amgen, Jill Osiecki, wore a recording device, hidden under her shirt to catch Amgen in their misbranding of the blockbuster drug Aranesp. With all the alleged federal oversight, it is still the whistleblowers who are the best resource for catching “big pharma” in their schemes to defraud the public. Amgen bragged about giving a $10,000 “unrestricted grant” to a special doctor who was an advisor to the local Medicare contact. He used the funds for his own project.
For the money the doctor helped convince the Medicare contact to provide reimbursement for prescribing Aranesp for unapproved uses. Aranesp is an anemia drug and cannot be prescribed for other uses. This was an open and shut illegal Medicare reimbursement scheme based on false claims, and the Federal False Claims Act allowed New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to leverage Amgen to pay a $612 million national settlement for marketing these drugs for kidney disease and cancer over the past decade.
Amgen pleaded guilty to a criminal misdemeanor in Federal Court that will require an additional $150 million fine. This outcome concluded a five-year investigation into Amgen’s marketing practices, and will settle the claims in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. How much money did Amgen actually make on Aranesp? I can’t imagine. It appears the drug companies make more than enough to continue to take liberties with illegal marketing schemes and other illicit practices. This is just one in a long series of huge settlements which are helping to refund the prosecution’s coffers.