PharMerica reaches settlement for accepting kickbacks tied to anemia drug

Days after the pharmaceutical company Amgen agreed to pay $71 million to 48 states to resolve allegations that it illegally marketed the anemia drug Aranesp, PharMerica Corp. has agreed to a settlement for taking kickbacks to promote the drug, according to the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting (KYCIR).

Although the preliminary settlement terms were not disclosed, a spokeswoman for Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway confirmed to KYCIR that the state had reached a settlement with PharMerica, which would be finalized within the next 45 days.

The pending settlement would resolve whistleblower allegations that PharMerica accepted kickbacks from Amgen in exchange for prescribing Aranesp to long-term-care patients beyond the scope of FDA-approved use. For the last three years, the anemia drug has been the center of a whirlwind of multimillion-dollar settlements. In 2012, Amgen paid $762 million as part of a guilty plea for misbranding Aranesp. Months later, the company paid an additional $24.9 million to settle federal claims that it paid kickbacks to long-term-care pharmacies PharMerica and Omnicare to promote the drug. Last year, Omnicare paid the government $4.2 million to resolve claims that it switched patients from a competitor's drug to Aranesp.

The PharMerica settlement announced Friday would be the company's third this year. In March, the second-largest pharmacy operator announced it would settle two federal fraud lawsuits that it promoted an anti-seizure medication Depakote for nursing home patients with dementia. That settlement still has not been finalized; however, in 2012, Depakote manufacturer, Abbott Laboratories Inc. paid $1.5 billion to resolve separate allegations of off-label promotion of the drug.

Months later, PharMerica announced a $31.5 million settlement to resolve claims that it routinely dispensed Schedule II drugs in non-emergency situations. As part of that settlement, PharMerica entered into a corporate integrity agreement in which it would undergo "substantial internal compliance reforms."

For more:
- here's the KYCIR article

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