Amgen to pay $25 million to settle kickback allegations

Amgen Inc has agreed to pay $24.9 million to settle allegations that it provided kickbacks to long-term care pharmacy providers to entice them to use its Aranesp anemia drug instead of a rival medicine, the Department of Justice announced on Tuesday.

The DOJ charged that the world's largest biotechnology company violated the False Claims Act through kickbacks paid to Omnicare Inc, Kindred Healthcare Inc and PharMerica Corp in exchange for switching Medicare and Medicaid patients to Aranesp to treat their anemia.

"We will continue to pursue pharmaceutical companies that pay kickbacks to long-term care pharmacy providers to influence drug-prescribing decisions," Stuart Delery, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Civil Division, said in a statement.

"Patients in skilled nursing facilities deserve care that is free of improper financial influences," he added.

The civil settlement resolves a lawsuit filed in District Court for the District of South Carolina under the whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act, the DOJ said.

The lawsuit was the fourth of five qui tam, or whistleblower, suits brought against the company that had been previously disclosed by Amgen. One had been previously settled and two others dismissed, the company said.

In a statement, Amgen denied all of the allegations that were resolved by the settlement.

(Reporting by Bill Berkrot, editing by G Crosse)