State AGs suing U.S. drug maker Amgen

Oct. 31, 2009 at 4:33 PM
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BOSTON, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Several state attorneys general allege the U.S. biotechnology firm Amgen Inc. has engaged in illegal kickbacks to help sales of its anemia drug Aranesp.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who led the investigation, said in a statement released Friday that Amgen, based in Thousand Oaks, Calif., allowed medical practices to bill insurers, including state Medicaid programs, for extra amounts of the drug given out as free samples, The New York Times reported.

"In an egregious violation of the law, Amgen allegedly bribed medical providers and left taxpayers footing the bill for free drug samples," Cuomo said in the statement.

The suit against Amgen, which was filed in federal court in Boston by 14 states and the District of Columbia, also names drug distributor AmerisourceBergen as a defendant. The Times said the states' suit is the second filed in connection with Aranesp -- Kassie Westmoreland, a former Amgen sales representative, has lodged a whistle-blower suit.

Amgen said in a statement the allegations by the attorneys general are "without merit," asserting it has a strong program to comply with regulations.

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