The feds zero in on United Therapeutics' marketing practices

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has just added United Therapeutics ($UTHR) to the growing list of companies under scrutiny for their marketing practices. The Maryland-based company has received a subpoena that calls into question three of its pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) drugs--the only three products it sells.

As Reuters reports, the subpoena requires United Therapeutics to submit documents regarding the injectable Remodulin, inhaled Tyvaso and Adcirca, which comes in tablet form. All three drugs treat PAH, a buildup of pressure in the lung arteries. The Department of Justice is also investigating.

The subpoena comes at a tough time for United Therapeutics. Earlier this year, the FDA shot down the company's oral follow-up to Remodulin for the second time in 6 months. The setback snuffed out hopes that the drug would join the increasingly crowded PAH market anytime soon. Since then, the company has watched rivals score approvals for their own new contenders, with Bayer now marketing its oral Adempas and Actelion ($ATLN) following up its best-selling Tracleer with Opsumit.

Instead, United Therapeutics joins a slew of pharma companies under fire for their marketing practices. Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) became the latest to settle with the Department of Justice last month, paying $2.2 billion to end a long-standing probe into its marketing practices, including promotions for the antipsychotic drug Risperdal. But as more and more companies join the "repeat offender" list, critics question whether financial penalties are enough to deter pharma's bad behavior.

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