Biogen pays $22 million to resolve drug kickback accusations

Cambridge-based Biogen — now well-known as the host of an early-pandemic superspreader event — has agreed to fork over $22 million to close the case on claims that its used two charitable funds to “game the system” and give kickbacks to people taking its multiple sclerosis drugs.
U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling’s office announced settlements on Thursday, with Biogen paying the $22 million “to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act” and specialty pharmacy Advanced Care Scripts agreeing to pay $1.4 million to close the book on accusations it helped the larger company do so.
“Biogen coordinated with ACS to game the system, time its payments, and direct its money to cover co-pay costs for patients using its drugs,” said First Assistant United States Attorney Nathaniel Mendell in a statement.
The federal prosecutors say Biogen and ACS used the foundations Chronic Disease Fund and The Assistance Fund as “conduits” to pay the co-pay obligations of thousands of Medicare patients taking Avonex and Tysabri, two multiple sclerosis drugs.
The feds’ “Anti-Kickback Statute” prohibits pharmaceutical companies from giving people anything — directly or indirectly — to induce Medicare patients to purchase companies’ drugs.
CDF paid $2 million and TAF paid $4 million, both last year, to resolve related allegations against them.
“Biogen tried to unfairly boost its bottom line by working with Advanced Care Scripts to bill Medicare for those who were already receiving their drug for free, undermining Medicare’s co-pay structure which was set up to safeguard against inflated drug prices,” said Joseph Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division. “Kickback schemes like this one undermine our healthcare system, can compromise medical decisions, and waste taxpayer dollars.”
Biogen is now well known for hosting a large conference downtown in the very early days of the pandemic that quickly led to 100 sick attendees, sending the company and health officials scrambling with shuttle buses to round up all the people exposed and bring them to Boston hospitals for testing. A recent study estimated some 300,000 cases can be traced back to that Feb. 26-27 conference.
In all, Biogen’s two-day brainstorming session is tied to an estimated 1.6% of all coronavirus infections in the U.S., the study states.

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