Former Amgen staffers take the Fifth in kickbacks case

Remember the Amgen whistleblower lawsuit that accused the company of offering kickbacks to doctors to boost sales of its Aranesp medication for anemia? As Pharmalot now reports, the plaintiffs are preparing for a trial in Boston later this year--and five former Amgen workers have refused to answer questions in depositions, fearing they'll open themselves to criminal prosecution.

Filed by a former Amgen sales rep, the False Claims Act lawsuit has been joined by 15 state governments (the feds haven't decided whether to jump in). It alleges that Amgen offered to overfill Aranesp vials, so that doctors could bill payers for the larger amount and use the smaller, correct dose, keeping the remainder for use with other patients. And it accuses the company of offering junkets and consulting arrangements to doctors, with payments tied to increased volume of Aranesp prescriptions.

Now, ex-Amgenites are refusing to talk about Aranesp sales under oath, claiming their Fifth Amendment rights. "The former employees of Amgen--at every level of the corporation from sales representative to senior management--were unwilling to answer even basic questions about their tenure with Amgen for fear of exposing themselves to criminal prosecution," a sales rep's attorney wrote in a court memo, according to Pharmalot.

The lawyer is aiming to have the depositions filed in court and made public.

- get the Pharmalot post