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Chronic Kidney Failure Drug, Aranesp, At Center of Kick-Back Suit Against Amgen

By October 31, 2009

Sales of Aranesp, the chronic kidney failure and anemia drug, were promoted through a kick-back scheme, alleges a suit against Amgen and AmeriSourceBergen Corporation, filed by 14 states and the District of Columbia. The kick-back scheme allegedly worked by providing free drug samples that were added to vials, The excess drug could then be used to treat patients and billed to Medicaid and other third-party insurers.

Physicians received sham consultant agreements and other services in exchange for promoting the drug to Medicaid and other third-party payers, according to a statement from N.Y.S. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's office.

Amgen responded in a statement that the suit was "without merit" and is complying with lawmakers.

Once Amgen's product leader, Aranesp lost market share from $4.1 billion in sales in 2006 to $3.1 billion in 2008. The decline appears to be linked to questions about safety in kidney failure patients, particularly heart attacks and strokes. Its safety was questioned again this week in a clinical trial report in the New England Journal of Medicine, which revealed that kidney patients taking Aranesp had twice the rate of stroke as those on placebo.

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