The state of California has joined a whistle-blower lawsuit against Bristol-Myers Squibb (PDF) filed by a former a salesman for the company and a former professional basketball player who allege that the company used illegal kickbacks to induce physicians to prescribe drugs.
Calif. joins whistle-blower lawsuit against Bristol-Myers Squibb
Whistle-blower Michael Wilson, who worked as a Bristol-Myers salesman until 2004, and former NBA player Lucius Allen, who remains on the company's employment on disability, alleged that drugmaker used illegal means to encourage the sales of drugs for which California insurers paid more than $3.5 billion between 1999 and 2004.
Laura Hortas, a spokeswoman for Bristol-Myers Squibb, said in an e-mail that the company believes the lawsuit has no merit and the company will defend itself vigorously. She declined to comment on whether the company denies the conduct alleged in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims that Bristol-Myers Squibb sales staff routinely used sporting tickets, lavish meals, travel to luxury destinations and outright cash payments as means to induce physicians and pharmaceutical formulary committees to increase their volumes of certain prescriptions or switch to newly patented versions of drugs.
The lawsuit includes several dozen specific examples, including the dates, names of locations or events, payment amounts, and the initials of physicians' names. The sales representatives said they were told to monitor high-volume prescribers in particular on an almost weekly basis, and to punish those whose prescriptions fell behind by withholding the kickbacks.
The drugs affected included Abilify, Avapro, BuSpar, Cefzil, Glucophage, Glucovance, Monopril, Plavix, Pravachol, Praviguard, Serzone and Tequin.
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