Amgen reps allege marketing abuse

As if Amgen didn't have enough to worry about with its cash-cow anemia drugs under fire. Now it's not only dealing with document subpoenas from the feds, but defending itself against charges of bull-whipping sales reps into marketing drugs off label and violating patients' privacy.

Last month, a former Amgen rep filed suit against the company, alleging that she'd been fired after refusing to participate in a campaign to boost Enbrel sales by pushing the drug for off-label uses. The company trotted out a list of other reasons why she was let go. Now, another rep has sued, saying he, too, was fired for balking at marketing methods he  considered unethical, even illegal.

It started in 2005, as increasing competition for the psoriasis and arthritis drug appeared on the horizon, the suits claim. According to this new complaint, sales reps were told to pull patient files from doctors' offices to identify those who might be steered toward Enbrel--including those with mild psoriasis, for which the drug wasn't FDA-approved. Reps also were told to write letters on doctors' behalf to insurers, to convince them to foot the bill for Enbrel in these patients. Letters about the drug were sent to all psoriasis patients in every cooperating doctors' files. The blog Pharmalot has published an internal Amgen memo about some of these sales practices.

In response to the reps' charges, the company has cited its sales-rep code of behavior, which requires employees to comply with all rules governing drug marketing. The two cases are in arbitration.

- read the item and link to the memo at Pharmalot

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