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August 02, 2016

Suit Alleges Drug Firm Made Gifts to Secure Medicare Money

A whistle-blower lawsuit accuses pharmaceutical company Celgene of donating to and colluding with two large patient-assistance charities to get more Medicare patients to use its high-priced cancer drugs, in violation of a federal antikickback law, Bloomberg reports.

New court filings in the case, which dates to 2010, allege that Celgene worked with the Patient Access Network Foundation and the Chronic Disease Fund on the scheme, which helped net the company billions of dollars from Medicare and other taxpayer-funded health plans. The company annually donated $50 million to $100 million to the charities and received data that helped it determine how its donations were affecting sales, according to the lawsuit filed by Beverly Brown, a former Celgene sales representative.

“Ms. Brown is wrong and her allegations are baseless,” said Brian Gill, a spokesman for the Summit, N.J.-based company. He said Celgene followed federal rules regarding charitable donations.

Several pharmaceutical companies have been hit in recent years with accusations that they are too close to patient-assistance charities — nonprofits largely supported by drugmaker donations that help people cover co-pays for expensive medications. The top seven such charities more than doubled in size from 2010 to 2014, according to Bloomberg. The Patient Access Network Foundation ranks No. 24 on The Chronicle’s latest Philanthropy 400 list ranking of U.S. nonprofits by private support. The Chronic Disease Fund ranks No. 85.