The Biogen laboratory has reached an amicable agreement, providing for compensation of 900 million dollars, with a whistleblower who accused the firm of having paid bribes to doctors to encourage them to prescribe its treatments against multiple sclerosis.
The whistleblower behind the report, Michael Bawduniak, will receive approximately $250 million directly, according to a statement released Monday (September 26) by the US Department of Justice.
The rest will go, essentially, to the federal government and a small part (56 million) to 15 American states which had joined the procedure, to which the agreement puts an end.
Former employee of the laboratory, this commercial promoted to the marketing department had left Biogen in 2012, before taking legal action.
The False Claims Act, a law on false claims for reimbursement, authorizes a private citizen to sue in civil justice on behalf of the American government if it appears that the State has been cheated financially by an individual or a legal person.
The texts also provide that the whistleblower may receive part of any compensation awarded by the courts.
This is an important example of the vital role that whistleblowers and their lawyers can play in protecting our nation's public health programs.
Brian Boynton, US Department of Justice
In the case of Biogen, approximately 30% of the cost of treatments related to multiple sclerosis are covered by the federal Medicare program, public health coverage dedicated to people aged 65 and over.
According to documents on file, the US government's other major public health program, Medicaid, supports about 10.5% of patients with the condition who are under age 65.
Biogen was accused of paying millions of dollars a year in bribes to doctors to get them to prescribe its blockbuster drug Avonex, whose sales were declining, and its new treatment, called Tysabri.
Several drugs against multiple sclerosis were in competition and considered, according to the prosecution, to be equivalent.
In addition, in the case of Tysabri, it was a treatment considered as an alternative to the others in the event of a lack of response to a first drug.
It also had to be administered intravenously, unlike its competitors, which could be ingested more easily.
The facts considered relate to a period from 2009 to 2014. Michael Bawduniak
"maintained this file on behalf of the United States government for more than seven years"
, said the head of the civil branch of the United States Department of Justice, Brian Boynton , quoted in the press release.
“This is an important example of the vital role that whistleblowers and their lawyers can play in protecting our nation's public health programs
,” he added.