Procrit kickback case goes back to court

The Procrit kickback case is back. A U.S. federal appeals court has reinstated a whistleblower suit against Johnson & Johnson's drug subsidiary that accused the company of defrauding Medicare. According to the suit, J&J offered kickbacks to doctors and healthcare providers who used the anemia drug.

You'll recall that early last year, kickback claims made by a former sales rep were dismissed by a Boston federal court. The First Circuit reversed that dismissal and remanded the claims back to Boston. But the appeals court affirmed the dismissal of kickback allegations made by another rep, as well as accusations of off-label Procrit marketing.

J&J's pharma unit said it would "vigorously contest" the "narrower" claims sent back to lower court. And it touted the off-label marketing dismissal, saying that company policy allows marketing products only for approved uses.

The allegations that remain aren't trivial, however. The suit claims that J&J induced doctors to give their patients Procrit by handing over the drug for free, offering secret discounts, and paying the physicians honoraria and other fees. The kickbacks allegedly ramped up after Amgen launched its rival drug Aranesp. The whistleblowers' attorney said the suit may be the largest Medicare fraud case in history. We'll have to see what the court does next.

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