Amgen Inc. has agreed to pay the United States $24.9 million to settle allegations that it violated the False Claims Act, the Justice Department announced. The settlement resolves allegations that Amgen paid kickbacks to long-term care pharmacy providers Omnicare Inc., PharMerica Corporation and Kindred Healthcare Inc. in return for implementing "therapeutic interchange" programs that were designed to switch Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries from a competitor drug to Aranesp.   The government alleged that the kickbacks took the form of performance-based rebates that were tied to market-share or volume thresholds.   The government further alleged that, as part of the therapeutic interchange program, Amgen distributed materials to consultant pharmacists and nursing home staff encouraging the use of Aranesp for patients who did not have anemia associated with chronic renal failure.
 
"We will continue to pursue pharmaceutical companies that pay kickbacks to long-term care pharmacy providers to influence drug prescribing decisions," said Stuart F. Delery, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Civil Division.   "Patients in skilled nursing facilities deserve care that is free of improper financial influences."
 
This civil settlement resolves a lawsuit filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provision of the False Claims Act, which allows private citizens with knowledge of false claims to bring civil actions on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery.   The False Claims Act suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina.

Amgen also pleaded guilty in December 2012 in a federal court in New York to misbranding Aranesp and agreed to pay $762 million in a civil settlement and criminal fines.