Boehringer Ingelheim settles marketing case for just $95M

It is Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals' turn. The unit of German drugmaker Boehringer Ingelheim has agreed to a $95 million settlement to resolve charges that it hyped four drugs for uses that were not FDA-approved.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the settlement covers the stroke-prevention drug, Aggrenox, the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) drugs Atrovent and Combivent, and the hypertension drug Micardis. The company was accused of paying kickbacks to doctors to prescribe the drugs, sometimes at doses that exceeded their approved levels.

The marketing, for example, claimed that Aggrenox was superior to Bristol-Myers Squibb's ($BMY) Plavix, when it was not, the DOJ said. The company also pushed doctors to prescribe Atrovent and Combivent for treating asthma and coughs associated with colds and flu in children when the drugs have not even been tested on children, according to a release from law firm Philips & Cohen, which handled the whistleblower lawsuit that kicked off the case.

The case was launched in 2005 by whistleblower Robert Heiden, who will receive more than $17 million for his part in the probe and deal, which according to his lawyers, included wearing a wire to collect evidence against the drugmaker.

In addition to the payment, the company has agreed to an expansive Corporate Integrity Agreement, the Department of Justice said. In a statement to Bloomberg, a company spokeswoman said, "The company has been cooperating with the government since its investigation began." She pointed out that the company admitted no liability.

The dollar amount in this agreement is paltry when compared with many other marketing settlements that the feds have been racking up in recent years. Many of them now top $500 million. The largest was with GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) for $3 billion, a settlement that covered a variety of off-label and safety-related claims, including allegations that it downplayed the safety risks of its controversial diabetes drug Avandia. Still to come is the pending settlement of Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ), which reports have suggested could run anywhere from $1.6 billion to as much as $2.2 billion. That will mostly be for its marketing of the antipsychotic Risperdal and a handful of other products.

- here's the DOJ release
- read the Bloomberg story
- here's a release from Heiden's law firm

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