Ex-rep claims Abbott pushed TriCor off-label

Abbott Laboratories ($ABT) recently wrapped up its Depakote difficulties with the Department of Justice, with a $1.6 billion off-label marketing settlement. Now, we discover that another Abbott ex-employee has blown the whistle, this time alleging that the company pushed its TriCor cholesterol remedy for off-label uses.

The lawsuit was filed in 2009, but remained under seal till now because of whistleblower-protection rules, the Chicago Tribune reports. In it, ex-Abbott sales rep Amy Bergman contends that the company "trained, directed, incentivized and encouraged" her to push TriCor for unapproved uses--and to offer kickbacks to doctors to boost prescriptions.

The suit is just the latest in a long, long line of marketing allegations in Big Pharma (and not-so-big pharma). So many drugmakers have paid hundreds of millions--even billions--to settle investigations into off-label marketing and kickbacks, the headlines are starting to blur together. And a growing number of companies are repeat offenders, or are accused of repeat violations in new whistleblower claims and DoJ probes.

As Abbott points out, the federal government declined to join this suit. That means the DoJ reviewed the case, and passed (at least for now). A company spokesman told the newspaper that the allegations have no merit.

Bergman's lawyer, however, says she intends to pursue her claims, despite the government's decision. It "will not have an effect on the outcome of the case," attorney Robert N. Nicholson said (as quoted by the Tribune). The Justice Department may choose to join later, he said.

- read the Tribune coverage

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