- Bristol-Myers Squibb will pay $30 million in a settlement deal with the California Department of Insurance over charges the drugmaker illegally marketed its drugs and paid kickbacks to doctors, the state agency said Tuesday.
- Three former Bristol-Myers employees had claimed the drugmaker paid for lavish dinners, tickets to Broadway plays, enrollment in Lakers basketball camp and other inducements to encourage doctors to prescribe certain drugs more often.
- Bristol-Myers denies wrongdoing and will bring almost a decade of litigation to a close with its settlement deal.
Prosecutors claim the kickbacks from Bistol-Myers were used to promote a wide range of the company's drugs including the cholesterol drug Pravachol, the Abilify antipsychotic, the blood-thinning drug Plavix and eleven other medications.
Bristol-Myers purportedly gave California physicians access to box suites at sporting events, paid for golf outings and pricey dinners and enrolled doctors and their children in a Lakers basketball camp, according to the California Department of Insurance.
While the initial whistleblower lawsuits date back to March 2007, the state Department of Insurance took over prosecution of the suit in early 2011.
"Patients have a right to expect medications prescribed for them are based solely on medical need and not because the physician was given tickets to a sporting event or treated to a lavish golf outing," said state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.
Many large drugmakers have been ensnared in similar litigation alleging illegal kickbacks paid to doctors to encourage increased prescribing.
Novartis, for example, is battling a whistleblower lawsuit claiming the Swiss pharma giant paid doctors through fabricated educational programs. The Manhattan U.S. Attorney recently requested documents on 80,000 events held with doctors to encourage the prescription of Novartis' cardiovascular drugs. And Novartis already settled a separate kickback case last year for $390 million.
The settlement with Bristol-Myers can be viewed here.