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Catch of the Week: Avanir Pharmaceuticals

Posted  September 27, 2019

Our Catch of the Week goes to Avanir Pharmaceuticals, manufacturer of Nuedexta, for allegedly paying kickbacks to physicians and engaging in false and misleading marketing tactics.  Avanir allegedly marketed Nuedexta in long-term care facilities and targeted their sales tactics to encourage doctors to prescribe the drug to dementia patients for off-label uses. The pharma company agreed to pay over $108 million in civil damages, criminal penalties, and forfeiture to resolve liability over the conduct. In addition, four doctors were indicted for allegedly receiving kickbacks from the pharma company.

Of the $108 million, $95,972,017 resolved False Claims Act allegations arising out of two lawsuits filed by whistleblowers who were formerly employed by Avanir. The whistleblowers — Kevin Manieri, Duane Arnold, and Mark Shipman — will collectively receive more than $17 million. Manieri was a sales director at Avanir and witnessed the company’s alleged off-label sales strategies and kickbacks first-hand. Arnold and Shipman were sales managers who were responsible for promoting Nuedexta to physicians at long term care facilities. Arnold and Shipman claimed they were encouraged and directed to market the drug for off-label uses and reward doctors who prescribed the drug.

“When a drug company pays kickbacks to physicians, it can affect their medical decision making and undermine the proper treatment of their patients,” explained Northern District of Georgia U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak in the DOJ’s announcement of the settlement.  Northern District of Ohio U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman echoed: “Doctors should prescribe medicine based on what is best for their patients, not on which drug company is paying for their travel and meals.”

The targeted population of Avanir’s alleged fraud, elderly patients with dementia, are not in the best position to advocate for the care they need. As U.S. Attorney Pak noted: “This [fraud] is particularly troublesome when it affects our vulnerable elderly population.”

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Tagged in: Anti-Kickback and Stark, Catch of the Week, FCA Federal, Healthcare Fraud, Off-Label and Unapproved Use, Pharma Fraud, Whistleblower Case, Whistleblower Rewards,