Drugmaker Sanofi US will pay $109 million to settle allegations by federal authorities that the company gave away an injectable drug to treat osteoarthritis to doctors who ordered the medication.
The agreement is the latest large settlement targeting alleged misdeeds by drugmakers. This week, a federal judge accepted a guilty plea from Amgen
regarding the illegal marketing of an anemia drug; Amgen agreed to pay $762 million in criminal fines. In August, a Johnson & Johnson division agreed to pay $181 million
to resolve allegations brought by 36 states and Washington, D.C., that the business had inappropriately marketed two antipsychotic drugs. The Johnson & Johnson division admitted no wrongdoing in that settlement. Prescription drugs amounted to 10%, or $259 billion, of the nation's $2.59 trillion in national health spending in 2010, the most recent year for which figures are available.
Federal authorities alleged that Sanofi sought to undercut a rival drugmaker by increasing the amount of Sanofi drugs that doctors would receive—in one case 25 free syringes for every 100 ordered—without any additional cost, which "surreptitiously lowered the effective price" and spared Sanofi-Aventis from actually lowering the cost of its drugs, according to allegations in a U.S. Justice Department news release
announcing the settlement.
Doctors received "large numbers of free samples of Hyalgan on a regular basis specifically for the purpose of inducing physicians to buy Hyalgan and bill federal healthcare programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, for such samples," the government's complaint (PDF)
said. The company said
in a news release that it had uncovered "concerns" with samples of the drug, Hyalgan, prior to the government's investigation.
A spokesman for Sanofi did not respond to requests for information at deadline. The company voluntarily halted Hyalgan samples in 2009. The company said it cooperated with the investigation and does not face any related criminal charges.
Sanofi said it also agreed to a corporate integrity agreement with HHS' Office of the Inspector General under the settlement.
Whistleblower Mark Giddarie, a former sales representative, will receive $18.5 million of the settlement under the False Claims Act, the Justice Department said.