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Galena Biopharma Charged with Paying Kickbacks to Opioid Prescribers

Oxycodone TabletsAnother pharmaceutical company is under fire for paying kickbacks to doctors for prescribing its opioid drug. The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced that Galena Biopharma Inc. will pay more than $7.55 million to resolve charges that it paid kickbacks to induce physicians to prescribe Abstral, its fentanyl-based pain medication.

The settlement is particularly concerning given the growing opioid crisis. Opioids, including prescription painkillers and street drugs like heroin, contributed to more than 33,000 U.S. deaths in 2015, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The problem is only growing worse, with approximately 91 Americans dying from opioid-related overdoses every day.

“Given the dangers associated with opioids such as Abstral, it is imperative that prescriptions be based on a patient’s medical need rather than a doctor’s financial interests,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division said in a press statement. “The Department of Justice intends to vigorously pursue those who offer and receive illegal inducements that undermine the integrity of government health care programs.”

According to the DOJ, Galena violated the False Claims Act by providing multiple kickbacks to induce doctors to prescribe the opioid drug. The illegal kickbacks included:

  • Providing 85+ free meals to the doctors and staff of a high-prescribing practice
  • Paying doctors and speakers ($5,000 to doctors, $6,000 to speakers – plus expenses) to attend an “advisory board” that was partly planned, and attended, by Galena sales team members
  • Using a performance-based rebate agreement to pay a physician-owned pharmacy approximately $92,000 to induce the owners to prescribe Abstral

The DOJ further alleged that Galena paid doctors to refer patients to the company’s RELIEF patient registry study. The study was nominally designed to collect data on patient experiences with Abstral, but really acted as a way to induce the doctors to prescribe Abstral. Two of the doctors who received remuneration from Galena were convicted for offenses relating to their prescriptions of Abstral.

As San Diego medical malpractice attorneys, we continue to be disappointed that some drug manufacturers and physicians are choosing their own financial interests ahead of patient safety. To effectively combat the opioid abuse epidemic, medical professionals need to be part of the solution rather than the problem.

For help with your prescription drug case, contact a San Diego medical malpractice lawyerat the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation.