AstraZeneca has agreed to pay American authorities $7.9 million to settle allegations the company engaged in a kickback scheme with Medco Health Solutions, a pharmacy benefit managers, to boost sales of its heartburn medication Nexium, according to a BioSpace article.
“AstraZeneca embarked on this course of unlawful conduct knowing it would lead to the submission of substantial and myriad false claims for Nexium by participating pharmaceutical providers to government health care programs, when by law these claims were not reimbursable,” said the initial suit, filed in 2010 in Delaware, the home of the company’s American unit.
The U.S. Department of Justice had charged the company with fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud and bribery after an internal whistle-blower alerted regulators to AstraZeneca’s regular agreement to pay for the “sole and exclusive” status of its Nexium on a coveted list of drugs reimbursed under government plans.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce Branda said AstraZeneca had “hidden financial agreements between drug manufacturers and pharmacy benefit managers that can improperly influence which drugs are available to patients and the price paid for the drugs.”
The settlement was not an admission of guilt, but rather the quickest way for the company to put the lawsuit behind it, AstraZeneca said in a statement.
“It is in the best interest of the company to resolve these matters and to move forward with our business of discovering and developing important, life-changing medicines — while avoiding the delay, uncertainty, and expense of protracted litigation,” said the statement.