A federal jury heard an audio tape of two sales representatives for Illinois-based TAP Pharmaceutical Products offering Tufts Health Plan $60,000 in grants, plus other incentives, if it agreed to switch from a rival's drug back to TAP's more expensive prostate cancer medicine.
The tape was played for the jury at the trial of 11 current and former TAP Pharmaceutical employees charged with offering kickbacks, bribes and free drugs to hospitals and doctors who prescribed Lupron.
Joseph Gerstein, M.D., Tufts' medical director of pharmacy, testified Tuesday about the tapes and his role as a whistleblower who was secretly working with federal prosecutors.
During the taped negotiations, Janice Swirski, a national account manager for TAP, said TAP could not give Tufts a discount on the price of Lupron but would give Tufts $20,000 a year in education grants for three years if it would enter an "exclusivity" contract by telling doctors it would pay only for Lupron.
"I can write a letter with our commitment in it, I just can't get one out of our contracts office because they don't wanna even know about it," Swirski said during the taped April 1997 meeting with Gerstein.
Tufts had recently switched to Zolodex, a competing drug that costs about $100 less per dose than Lupron.
As another incentive, TAP would offer a discount for a smaller dose of the same drug that gynecologists prescribe to women for endometriosis treatment, Swirski told Gerstein.
TAP, based in Lake Forest, Ill., paid a record $885 million federal fine in 2001 to settle charges similar to those now facing the company's employees. Gerstein and Tufts received $17 million for helping the government.
Gerstein is expected to be cross-examined Thursday by lawyers for the TAP employees.