Amgen Sales Tactics Under Fire for Alleged Violations
Thousand Oaks-based drug maker Amgen is under scrutiny for allegedly engaging in improper marketing practices and violating federal patient privacy laws, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Two former employees claim that in 2005 Amgen required its salespeople to visit dermatologists' offices and request to search through patient medical records in an effort to find patients with psoriasis. The company was hoping to boost sales of Enbrel, a drug that treats the disease.
According to the former workers, Amgen staff sent letters to patients -- using physicians' letterheads and signatures -- suggesting that the patients consider the drug.
In some cases, Amgen workers allegedly would pose as doctors' employees and contact insurers to ask whether a patient could get pre-approval to use the drug.
The two former workers were fired for failing to abide by the sales tactics. Both are seeking damages in arbitration proceedings.
According to the workers, doctors were not directly paid to provide Amgen access to patients' records, but many were paid as much as thousands of dollars to host dinners and lectures advising physicians and patients about the drug.
Physicians and pharmaceutical industry experts contend that the alleged sales practices violate patient privacy laws.
Amgen also might have violated regulations that prohibit the promotion of drugs for uses beyond those listed on their labels. However, experts say the law is open to interpretation.
David Polk, spokesperson for Amgen, said the company has not violated any laws, adding that it "does not comment on pending litigation or personnel matters" (Costello, Los Angeles Times, 1/9).