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Calif. says Bristol-Myers paid off doctors

March 19, 2011 at 2:01 AM

LOS ANGELES, March 19 (UPI) -- Bristol-Myers Squibb rewarded "high-prescribing" doctors with trips to Los Angeles Lakers Dream Camps and other perks, California officials said.

The California Department of Insurance, which joined a lawsuit filed by a Bristol-Myers employee in 2007, asked a judge to unseal the litigation, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday. The judge granted the request last week.

In court papers released Friday, the state says doctors who handed out frequent prescriptions to Bristol-Myers products like Abilify, Plavix and Avapro, got money as well as gifts and treats. The company paid $515 million in 2007 to settle litigation with the federal government and other states but California officials said it continued to pay off doctors there.

Lucius Allen, a former Los Angeles Lakers player, and his wife, Eve, who formerly worked for Bristol-Myers, helped with the case, court papers said.

"We need to be sure that doctors are prescribing drugs because those drugs are best for their patients and not because a pharmaceutical company provided doctors with trips and kickbacks," California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said at a Friday news conference. "These illegal practices drive up the cost of health insurance for millions of Californians."

Bristol-Myers denied any wrongdoing and said it would defend itself against the suit.

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