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AstraZeneca Pays $7.9 Million for Alleged Violations of Anti-Kickback Laws

The Wall Street Journal reports that the drug manufacturer, AstraZeneca, will pay $7.9 million to the federal government over allegations that the manufacturer violated anti-kickback laws and attempted to defraud the federal, state, and local U.S. governments.

The drugmaker is accused of paying kickbacks to a large Pharmacy Benefits Manager in exchange for a guarantee that one of its bestselling drugs, Nexium® heartburn medication, be given best status on formularies for preferred coverage. The federal government further accused AstraZeneca of providing discounts to Medco Health Services (now Express Scripts) on other drugs, such as Prilosec® and Toprol®. According to court documents, these discounts caused false filings and fraudulent claims to be submitted under Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, and other federally-funded government health care programs.

The allegations stemmed from a whistleblower lawsuit filed in 2010 by two former AstraZeneca executive employees (Case No. 1:10-cv-00910). AstraZeneca’s Nexium® generated about $3.6 billion in revenue last year, which makes the settlement appear rather small.

An AstraZeneca spokeswoman commented that “[i]t is in the best interest of the company to resolve these matters and to move forward with our business . . . while avoiding the delay, uncertainty and expense of protracted litigation.” A spokesperson for Express Scripts declined to comment.

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