Marketing Practices of Bristol Myers Squibb Investigated
The U.S. Attorney's office in Boston has sent grand jury subpoenas to Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., the largest supplier of oncology products, in an investigation of whether the company illegally marketed its anticancer drugs and other products and whether it "encouraged doctors to improperly" bill Medicaid and Medicare, the Wall Street Journal reports. The Journal reports that investigators will pursue the following questions:
- Whether Bristol-Myers "provided oncologists with inducements, such as free drugs and devices, in exchange for purchases of other Bristol pharmaceuticals." In particular, prosecutors are examining Oncology Therapeutics Network, a San Francisco-based subsidiary of Bristol-Myers Squibb that markets drugs directly to doctors. According to industry analysts, Bristol-Myers "often bundles its anticancer drugs in its direct sales to doctors, allowing it to dominate the private-practice market."
Whether Onyx, the computer software program that the company provides to doctors to help in billing insurers, "facilitates the excess billing of Medicare and Medicaid by calculating reimbursements at a higher price than doctors pay for ... drugs." In addition, the U.S. Attorney is investigating whether Bristol-Myers Squibb and physicians violated the 1987 Prescription Drug Marketing Act by participating in a "scheme" in which doctors billed insurers and the government for Bristol-Myers Squibb drugs that they received for free.
Whether Apothecon Inc., a generic drug producing subsidiary of Bristol-Myers Squibb, gave pharmacists that dispensed its drugs
"improper inducements to dispense its generics over those of competitors, through higher Medicaid reimbursements."
The Journal reports that in addition to the federal inquiry, there are also "parallel state probes" of Bristol-Myers Squibb and other drug companies in California, Florida and Texas. Patrick Donohue, a Bristol-Myers Squibb spokesperson, said, "We are cooperating fully with the investigation. The company believes that its pricing practices are fully compliant with all the applicable federal and state laws, including Medicare and Medicaid requirements." The Journal reports that the Bristol-Myers Squibb case is part of a "long-running federal-state probe of [pharmaceutical] industry marketing practices." TAP Pharmaceuticals Corp., an affiliate of Abbott Laboratories, has also come under scrutiny for its oncology drug marketing and is "now negotiating a plea deal," the Journal reports (Cloud, Wall Street Journal, 2/27).
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