Amgen whistleblower can't challenge $612M settlement, judge says

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One Amgen whistleblower is balking at the government's off-label marketing settlement--but the federal court is having none of it. Dr. Joseph Piacentile, who worked undercover to gather evidence for the prosecutors' case, claims he and other whistleblowers have had no say-so in the settlement, Bloomberg reports. And he wants his day in court.

Piacentile's claims follow Amgen's ($AMGN) December guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of misbranding its anemia drug Aranesp. The company was accused of promoting the drug for uses not approved by the FDA, joining a long list of drugmakers who've paid hundreds of millions to settle similar allegations. Amgen agreed to pay $762 million, including $150 million in criminal penalties and $612 million to wrap up civil claims.

Those civil claims include Piacentile's. The doctor sued Amgen, claiming that Amgen "routinely" paid kickbacks to doctors to encourage them to prescribe not only Aranesp, but also the anti-inflammatory drug Enbrel and at least 5 other drugs. He's one of at least 10 whistleblowers whose allegations were taken up by federal investigators.

Prosecutors have been less interested in Piacentile's concerns about the settlement. The doctor asked for a hearing to challenge the civil portion of the deal, and the government struck back by asking the court to dismiss his whistleblower suit altogether. U.S. District Judge Sterling Johnson denied Piacentile's request. Whether the doctor will now sign on to the feds' settlement remains to be seen.

- read the Bloomberg story

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