AmerisourceBergen pharmacy firm agrees to pay $13.4 million to resolve kickback claims

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This April 2005 file photo shows drug distributor AmerisourceBergen's offices in Valley Forge. A specialty pharmacy company of AmerisourceBergen, US Bioservices, has agreed to pay $13.4 million to resolve U.S. government kickback claims. (AP Photo/George Widman)

A specialty pharmacy company of drug wholesaler Amerisource Bergen in Valley Forge has agreed to pay $13.4 million to settle government claims that it violated the False Claims Act by encouraging patients to refill prescriptions of Exjade, which treats high iron levels, in exchange for patient referrals and “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in annual service fees and rebates from the drug maker Novartis.

US Bioservices in Frisco, Tex. will pay $10.6 million to the federal government and $2.8 million to states, according to a filing in federal court in Manhattan Tuesday. Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim in the Southern District of New York alleged in a civil suit that federal state insurance programs were illegally billed for Exjade, and that US Bioservices had its nurses call patients to recommend they order prescription refills. The drug has been tied to serious side effects, including kidney and liver failure and gastrointestinal bleeding, court documents said.

AmerisourceBergen, in a previous filing with U.S. securities regulators, said that it was not admitting wrongdoing.  “We agreed to the settlement because we felt it was the best way for our team to move on from this issue and stay focused on supporting our patients and customers,” AmerisourceBergen spokesman Gabe Weissman said in a statement.  “In line with this point, there is no admission of any liability on our part in the settlement.”