Prosecutors strike yet another pharma kickback settlement, this time with Almirall

Almirall inked a $6.6 million settlement with U.S. and California officials to resolve kickbacks allegations. (Pixabay)

One by one, drugmakers have been handing over millions of dollars to the U.S. government to settle kickback allegations. And Almirall is the latest.

The Spain-based drugmaker agreed to pay $3.5 million to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and $3.1 million to the California Department of Insurance to wrap up claims that it paid doctors to prescribe more of its skin drugs.

Based on allegations outlined in a whistleblower lawsuit, the government said that Almirall's Aqua Pharmaceuticals business wined, dined, entertained and gave gifts to dermatologists to boost scripts. Almirall bought Aqua in 2013, and the alleged kickbacks extended from 2012 to 2017, the DOJ said.  

The company also used speaking events, advisory boards and more to influence prescribing habits, the feds alleged, focusing on three meds—Monodox, Cordran and Acticlate. 

Almirall, which changed Aqua's name to Almirall LLC last year, didn’t admit wrongdoing in the settlement. Aside from the DOJ probe, the California Department of Insurance had sued the company and secured its own $3.1 million settlement. 

The whistleblower, a former Aqua sales rep, will receive $1.7 million for her work in the case, according to her law firm.  

Almirall’s wrap-ups are the latest in a string of pharma kickbacks settlements, many of them related to charity contributions. The Justice Department has said certain donations actually served as kickbacks designed to boost sales. At least 10 drugmakers have settled those claims with the DOJ: Astellas, Amgen, Actelion, Aegerion, Jazz, Alexion, Lundbeck, Pfizer, Novartis and United Therapeutics.  

Meanwhile, the government’s massive kickback case against Novartis continues to press on. Stat recently reported the drugmaker could settle for close to $1 billion.