Teva funneled kickbacks through copay assistance charities for MS med Copaxone: DOJ

The U.S. Department of Justice has been hot on the heels of some of pharma's biggest players in a yearslong probe into an alleged industrywide co-pay kickback scheme. Months after Sanofi settled U.S. claims, the government now has its eyes set on Israeli drugmaker Teva. 

Federal prosecutors accused Teva in a new lawsuit of paying kickbacks to two patient copay assistance charities as part of a scheme to pump up prescriptions of multiple sclerosis med Copaxone, Reuters reported. 

The filing in a Boston district courthouse alleged the company paid more than $300 million to those third-party organizations and defrauded Medicare of "hundreds of millions" in reimbursements, Reuters said. 

Teva defended its involvement with copay charities and said in a statement that it was "dedicated to patient health and appropriate access to affordable medicines."

"This case brought by the Department of Justice regarding these charitable contributions only seeks to further restrict patients’ access to important medicines and healthcare," a Teva spokeswoman said in an email. "The company will vigorously defend itself against these allegations."

Teva is only the latest pharma giant to receive the DOJ's attention for its copay assistance tactics, joining a group that has at times blasted federal prosecutors' scrutiny. 

RELATED: Regeneron vows to fight DOJ lawsuit alleging charity donations were Eylea kickbacks

Despite some pushback, the DOJ's investigation has born fruit with other drugmakers. 

In March, Sanofi agreed to pay $11.85 million to resolve allegations that it used kickbacks to boost prescriptions of Lemtrada. The MS drug costs nearly $100,000 per year, and patient copays can run thousands of dollars per year. 

Meanwhile, the DOJ has scored settlements from Pfizer, Astellas, Amgen, Alexion and United Therapeutics over the last few years.