Amgen sets aside $780M for marketing settlement

Another day, another potential marketing settlement. Amgen ($AMGN) says it has earmarked $780 million to resolve ongoing investigations into its marketing practices, as well as 10 whistleblower lawsuits that have been pending for years. The company said it's working on a settlement to wrap up the marketing probes, as well as investigations launched by state Medicaid programs.

Amgen has said in securities filings that the federal allegations involve "a wide variety of illegal marketing practices," as the New York Times reports. Over the past several years, company officials--both current and former--have been subpoenaed by grand juries and civil investigators.

At the center of the probes are Amgen's expensive anemia drugs Aranesp and Epogen. One whistleblower suit alleges Amgen engaged in a complicated kickback scheme to persuade doctors to use Aranesp rather than Johnson & Johnson's competing drug Procrit. According to the suit, Amgen overfilled Aranesp vials, giving doctors more of the drug for the same price, and touted the increased profits doctors could make by billing for the extra.

The company has pooh-poohed those allegations. Five former executives took the Fifth during depositions in the case, the NYT says. That suit had been scheduled for trial earlier this month, but it was called off, perhaps because of the impending settlement. "The proposed settlement remains subject to continuing discussions regarding the components of the agreement," Amgen said in a statement. The company said the settlement could be finalized in three to four months.

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