Teva scoffs at whistleblowers' evidence in bid to dismiss kickbacks case

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Teva has asked a judge to toss a case alleging a wide-ranging kickbacks scheme after years of discovery. (Pixabay)

After whistleblowers reached their "put up or shut up" moment for producing solid evidence of Copaxone and Azilect kickbacks—and didn't, Teva says—the generics giant has urged a judge to toss the allegations.

The whistleblowers' complaint, filed under seal in 2013 and amended in 2016, alleges the company ran a “sham” speaker program that spawned fraudulent prescriptions for its MS drug Copaxone and Parkinson's med Azilect. Teva sales reps sued the company on behalf of the federal government and dozens of states, arguing the program was “widespread and orchestrated from the highest levels” of Teva management.

Now, discovery has dragged on for two years. Teva handed over a million pages of documents, and the two sides have spent a full year on depositions, the company said. Despite all that, there's still not enough evidence to support the whistleblowers' allegations and warrant a trial, Teva claims.

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“Having now had the opportunity to engage in extensive discovery, and having arrived at their ‘put up or shut up’ moment, [the whistleblowers] remain unable to support their allegations, much less prove a case they do not have and that does not exist,” Teva’s recent filing says.

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

The sales reps claim Teva violated the False Claims Act, the Anti-Kickbacks Statute and more. According to the lawsuit, Teva paid prescribers $1,500 to $2,700 in speaking fees per event in exchange for scripts to build market share for the drugs. If doctors didn’t continue writing scripts, they weren’t allowed to stay on as paid speakers, the suit says.

The case runs parallel to a kickbacks case against Novartis. Federal authorities say the company traded dinners and entertainment to boost scripts in a wide-ranging scheme. Novartis attorneys, however, argue that the government’s evidence isn’t specific enough to support the allegations.

RELATED: Novartis was 'buying scripts,' feds say, as doctors and reps prepare to testify in kickbacks case

In its motion to dismiss the kickbacks suit, Teva says one whistleblower making allegations didn’t consider the physician speaking programs as kickbacks until he learned of the Novartis allegations. The whistleblowers actually helped set up the programs before and after filing their suit, the company contends. But in an important difference from the Novartis case, federal investigators declined to join in with the whistleblower allegations against Teva after investigating for two years, the company says.