Teva forks over $54M to settle Copaxone, Azilect kickbacks suit

After former sales reps sued Teva for paying kickbacks to boost scripts for Copaxone and Azilect, the company agreed to settle. (Pixabay)

Teva has plenty of lawsuits on its plate, even after resolving a couple of big opioid cases, but now it's worked its way past another one.

The drugmaker agreed to pay $54 million to settle a years-old whistleblower lawsuit claiming it paid doctors—as speakers or consultants at “sham” events—to prescribe multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone and Parkinson’s med Azilect. 

The drugmaker didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Former Teva sales reps Charles Arnstein and Hossam Senousy sued the company in 2013, alleging the company set up a program to pay doctors to prescribe the drugs through speakers’ fees. The events weren't educational, though, and only served as a conduit for paying docs to prescribe the drugs, according to the whistleblowers. 

RELATED: Teva used kickbacks to boost Copaxone, Azilect scripts, whistleblowers say 

The next year, the Justice Department declined to intervene in the lawsuit, and the whistleblowers proceeded on their own. Teva tried to get the lawsuit tossed, but a U.S. judge denied its motion for summary judgment earlier this year. The court found that Teva’s written compliance materials contained “all of the right language," but that didn't mean the company followed its own guidelines, the court said.

Both meds were covered by federal health programs, so the lawsuit alleged violations of the False Claims Act and the Anti-Kickback Statute. 

The settlement comes as Teva undergoes a years-long restructuring with plans to cut down $3 billion in annual costs and pay down its massive debt load. Meanwhile, Teva agreed to pay $85 million to escape an opioid trial in Oklahoma and has offered billions of dollars of free drugs to resolve a big chunk of nationwide opioid litigation, but so far a deal has not been finalized. The drugmaker also settled opioid suits from two Ohio counties for $20 million plus $25 million in free drugs.