Archive for the ‘Obama administration’ Category
Tuesday, May 29th, 2012
Posted May 29th, 2012
The Affordable Care Act created some desperately needed means to start controlling ever-rising health care costs. Many — like preventive care or delivery reforms — will take some time to realize savings. In contrast, new anti-fraud efforts look to be paying off right away, in amounts much bigger than expected.
The health reform law provided $350 million over ten years to increase anti-fraud investigation and enforcement resources for the Department of Justice (DOJ) and State Attorneys-General. The goal? Saving $6.4 billion over the next decade. Given that some estimate that fraud and waste cost as much as $60 billion a year, or $600 billion over a decade, saving one percent of that amount seems a pretty modest impact.
But wait! New estimates project that current or pending settlements of drug fraud litigation by the DOJ and the Attorneys-General will top $8 billion in FY2012 alone, according to the group Taxpayers Against Fraud. (See list below.) This is not the culmination of hundreds of lawsuits; it’s just the eight biggest. So it looks like this anti-fraud effort under the ACA will meet and then surpass its ten-year goal in less than two years!
To be fair, most of these eight drug fraud investigations were undoubtedly underway before the increased funding for anti-fraud efforts reached the DOJ and State Attorneys-General offices. But there is little doubt that providing these over-worked regulators with increased resources was a big help in increasing enforcement. DOJ probably has fewer lawyers working on all their pending drug fraud cases than some of the biggest drugmakers hire to defend a single lawsuit. But despite these disparities, these results show that very modest government investment in fighting fraud, coupled with hard work by government lawyers and whistleblowers, can pay off big.
For example, earlier this week drugmaker Abbott Labs in Chicago settled a civil and criminal investigation of their illegal promotion of the anti-convulsant drug Depakote as an unapproved treatment of dementia in seniors, and of various conditions in children. Abbott pleaded guilty to promoting these unapproved, or ‘off-label’ uses of Depakote, and agreed to pay $1.6 billion – one of the biggest settlements for the illegal promotion of a single drug.
There could be as many as a couple hundred pending whistle-blower lawsuits that are filed under seal and being investigated now by the federal or state regulators. These pending lawsuits may add up to billions of dollars of additional fines and settlements.
Some critics have warned that even billion-dollar fines are an inadequate deterrent when a drug company can make far in profits on illegally promoted sales of a drug.
For instance, the $1.4 billion record-breaking settlement with Eli Lilly in 2009 for illegal promotion of their antipsychotic drug Zeprexa was less than 5 percent of Lilly’s gross sales. Eight months later, DOJ shattered this record with an even bigger $2.3 billion settlement, which amounted to 14 percent of Pfizer’s gross sales of eight illegally marketed drugs (see here).
Similarly, this month’s $1.6 billion Depakote settlement is nearly 12 percent of the drug’s $13.8 billion in gross sales revenue from 1998 to 2008. Furthermore, DOJ is pioneering two mechanisms to deter future illegal conduct by Abbott, along with this hefty fine.
First, the Depakote settlement places Abbott on probation and imposes a corporate compliance and monitoring program, for five years. If Abbott violates the compliance agreement or significantly violates the law, the government can exclude Abbott, and all their drug products, from federal health care programs. That would cost Abbott billions in lost sales on numerous drugs.
The settlement also aims to hold Abbott’s corporate leadership personally accountable. Abbott’s CEO must personally certify compliance and the board of directors must review and report on compliance each year. If the CEO or the board is lax in these duties, they could be excluded from their positions at Abbott. And if CEO or board intentionally lie to the government to cover up any misconduct, they could face personal criminal liability under the federal False Statements Statute. (Find the plea agreement and related documents here.)
Sadly, Abbott’s illegal promotion of ineffective and dangerous uses of Depakote has both harmed and put at risk what is arguably the most vulnerable patient population – seniors suffering from dementia, who live away from their families in nursing homes. Undoubtedly millions of seniors were, and likely continue to be given Depakote inappropriately as a result of Abbott’s illegal promotional campaign.
Check back soon for more on (1) actions that Medicare and Medicaid can take to address the continuing effects on patients of illegal promotions of off-label use of drugs and (2) how the Arkansas AG fought prescription drug fraud, winning huge fines to plug the state’s Medicaid budget deficit.
Director, Prescription Access Litigation
Staff Attorney, Community Catalyst
Projected Drug Fraud Settlements in FY 2012, excerpted from the Taxpayers Against Fraud website.
||Off-label marketing of Vioxx — settled
||Series of drug frauds, said to be settled in principle.
||Off-label marketing of Depakote, settled.
||Illegal marketing of Aranesp, funds reserved.
||Illegal marketing of protonix, projected settlement amount.
|Johnson & Johnson
||Off-label marketing of Risperdal, civil settlement is expected.
||Adulteration of HIV drugs, settlement in excess of $400 million expected.
||AWP pricing fraud, settled.
A version of this blog was posted earlier on Health Policy Hub and Postscript.
Friday, May 28th, 2010
A surprising decision in the Second Circuit has breathed new life into legal efforts to prevent drug makers from paying to keep generics off the market.
Since 2005, the drug industry has increasingly used multi-million dollar ‘pay-for-delay’ settlements to prevent generic drugs from coming to the market. The PAL coalition has opposed this industry collusion with lawsuits on Provigil, Tamoxifen, and Cipro, and through our support for legislation (introduced by Rep. Rush and Sen. Kohl). The FTC has also been a steadfast opponent of these anti-competitive agreements and their negative impacts on consumers. Unfortunately, the ability of FTC or PAL members to challenge these settlements in the courts has been hampered by a number of unfavorable legal decisions.
The Second Circuit’s Cipro Decision
The Second Circuit’s April 29th ruling did dismiss the challenge to the ‘pay-for-delay’ settlements totaling $398 million that have prevented a generic version of Cipro from coming to the market. But the Court did so begrudgingly, and then invited the folks bringing the lawsuit to ask the Second Circuit to revisit the question of whether these settlements are legal under anti-trust protections. Even more surprising, the Court then spelled out why.
In their decision, the three judge panel stated that a review of the binding precedent established under Tamoxifen by the full nine-judge panel for the Second Circuit (called an ‘en banc review’) may be appropriate for four reasons: First, the Court said that United States Department of Justice has urged a review of this decision saying that “Tamoxifen adopted an improper standard that fails to subject reverse exclusionary payment settlements to appropriate antitrust scrutiny.” Second, the Court found that “there is evidence that the practice of entering into reverse exclusionary payment settlements has increased since we decided Tamoxifen.” Third, the panel stated that “after Tamoxifenwas decided, a principal drafter of the Hatch-Waxman Act criticized the settlement practice at issue.” Finally, the Court noted that the Tamoxifen decision was based in no small part on the now erroneous understanding that a pay-for-delay settlement with the first generic competitor would not prevent other generic competitors from attempting to followand file suit.
The 2005 Tamoxifen decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers New York, Vermont, Connecticut) dismissed an FTC order challenging a pay-for-delay settlement. The Tamoxifen Court ruled the practice legal under anti-trust law, because the settlement provided drug maker AstraZeneca with no more protection from generic competition than their patent already did.
This Tamoxifen decision, along with the Eleventh Circuit’s Schering-Plough decision in 2005, and Federal Circuit’s 2008 Cipro decision, have been mounting obstacles to consumer and FTC efforts to oppose these settlements. Only the Sixth Circuit, in its 2002 Cardizem decision, has held that such agreements to “eliminate competition” are a “per se illegal restraint on trade.”
When the Appeals Courts from different US Circuits arrive at differing legal standards, the US Supreme Court should resolve this inconsistency, or ‘split’ between the Courts. Indeed, the PAL-member lawsuits concerning Cipro and Tamoxifen asked the Supreme Court to do just that, as has the FTC. So far, all of these requests have been denied. But a possible reversal in the Second Circuit might change things.
Consumers, legal and medical experts, and the Administration all file briefs in opposition to continued legality of pay-for-delay settlements
Amicus briefs in support of the request for a reconsideration of the Tamoxifen standard were filed by PAL and PAL coalition member AFSCME DC37; AARP, AMA, and the Public Patent Foundation; Consumers Union, US Pirg, Consumer Federation of America, and the National Legislative Associaton on Prescription Drug Prices. Also filing briefs were the American Antitrust Institute, the FTC, and the Department of Justice’s Anti-Trust division.
The amicus brief for the Department of Justice argues that ”by shielding most private reverse settlement agreements from antitrust liability, the Tamoxifen standard improperly undermines the balance Congress struck in the Patent Act between the public interest in encouraging innovation and the public interest in competition.”
The amicus brief from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) added three additional reasons to those stated by the Second Circuit panel. FTC argued that the Tamoxifen standard gives drug companies an improper incentive to pay off generic drug manufacturers and protect even the weakest patents.
Next, FTC noted that the number of pay-for-delay settlements had grown since 2005, to now insulate “at least $20 billion in sales of branded drugs from generic competition.”
The FTC estimates (very conservatively in our opinion) that these settlements will continue to cost $3.5 billion a year by delaying competition from lower-priced generics, but warned that these costs may grow.
The amicus brief submitted by PAL and PAL member AFSCME District Council 37pointed out that these settlements have cost consumers and health plans $12 billion or more each year in lost savings on generic drugs, and the costs are likely to increase as brand-name drug prices go up (as they did by 9.2 % in the year ending on March 31, 2010) while generic drug prices decline (as they did by 9.7 % during this time period.) Aside from the effect that higher costs have on reducing access to needed medicines, PAL pointed out how these settlements threaten to reduce the quality of care for consumers by limiting the drug options available to them. PAL pointed out that consumers of the drug Provigil, which is protected from generic competition by a pay-for-delay settlement, end up entering the donut hole faster and paying huge sums out of pocket when their health plans refuse to cover the drug due to its high cost.
AARP, the AMA, and the Public Patent Foundation filed a brief arguing that these settlements threaten our health care system because they undermine consumer access to generic drugs, which have, on the whole, “saved consumers over $734 billion in the last 10 years.” AARP noted that “[e]ven for those patients who are insured but who are on fixed or limited incomes, having a generic option is often the difference between having access to health care treatment and not having any treatment option at all.”
AARP’s brief warned that the Tamoxifen precedent will have long-term negative consequences on the well being of consumers because “when a generic pharmaceutical’s entry into the market is delayed, it limits treatment access to vulnerable patient populations and prolongs the difficulty that physicians have in prescribing affordable treatment options.”
An amicus brief filed by Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of America, U.S. PIRG and National Legislative Association of Prescription Drug Prices pointed out that the Tamoxifen decision allows the pay-for-delay settlements that “prevents patent challenges” which is contrary to the purpose of the Hatch-Waxman Act to “encourage patent challenges…..”
The American Antitrust Institute filed an amicus brief highlighting the anticompetitive nature of these settlements, and the Attorney Generals from 34 States filed an amicus noting that “the Cipro case is also of exceptional importance because the United States Supreme Court has refused to review the split between the Sixth and Eleventh Circuits.”
Industry use of these pay-for-delay settlements has driven up costs and prevented access to needed medicines for millions of consumers. This industry practice has prevented or delayed generic versions of the drugs Cipro, Provigil, Androgel, and many other drugs that amount to $20 billion of our nation’s current $278 billion in drug spending, according to the FTC.
PAL, Community Catalyst, and dozens of PAL coalition members have opposed these settlements through lawsuits and legislative advocacy. Please contact us if you would like to join in our work to oppose these anti-competitive settlements.
— by Emily Cutrell and Wells Wilkinson
Thursday, July 16th, 2009
On July 6, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit expressing a new DOJ view on pay-for-delay settlements. The brief urges the 2nd Circuit to regard pay-for-delay settlements as “presumptively unlawful under Section 1 of the Sherman Act.” While the DOJ has not always supported a presumption against legality for these settlements, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has long been adamant that such settlements are unlawful. Now, more than ever before, the DOJ and the FTC seem to have a similar perspective on pay-for-delay settlements.
The July 6, 2009 brief filed by the DOJ signifies a stark departure from the Bush administration’s position. In 2006 and 2007, the DOJ urged the Supreme Court to refuse to hear two cases involving pay-for-delay settlements, involving the drugs K-Dur and Tamoxifen, because the DOJ felt these settlements were legal. In its latest brief, the DOJ states that “[r]everse payments are scarcely essential to the voluntary settlement of patent disputes.” The DOJ brief then goes on to discuss how such settlements have reduced the affordability of prescription drugs for consumers. The DOJ emphasized that it was not taking a stance on the specific settlement in the case at bar, involving the antibiotic drug Cipro, but made a more general statement about settlements including payments to the alleged patent infringer to keep the generic drug off of the market. The brief echoed earlier statements of Christine Varney, the new Assistant Attorney General, who announced during her confirmation hearings an intent to “align” the position of the DOJ with that of the FTC.
During a speech last month at the Center for American Progress, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz estimated that prohibiting pay-for-delay settlements would save consumers $3.5 billion per year. The anti-pay-for-delay sentiment in the FTC and DOJ has also reached Congress. Two bills in Congress, S.369 (introduced by Sens. Herb Kohl (D-WI.) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA)) and H.R. 1706 (introduced by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL-1.)) would help bring generic drugs to market sooner. These bills would prohibit brand name and generic drug companies from entering into agreements in which the brand name company pays off the generic company in return for the delay of the generic onto market. You can find out more about this legislation here.
The European Union also recently investigated the legality of pay-for-delay settlements. The EU study found that it took an average of seven months after expiration of the brand name company’s patent for a generic drug to come to market. This delay cost consumers about 3 billion euros (roughly U.S. $4.2 billion) from 2000 to 2007. You can read more about the EU investigation in the NY Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/09/business/global/09drug.html
Thursday, June 4th, 2009
Bill would ban the reverse payment settlements that are keeping new generics off the market!
Yesterday, a bill to ban the “pay-for-delay” settlements between brand-name drug companies and their generic competitors cleared its first legislative hurdle.
The House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection reported H.R. 1706, the “Protecting Consumer Access to Generic Drugs Act of 2009” out of subcommittee, sending it the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
If passed, H.R. 1706 would ban the “pay-for-delay” settlements between brand name drug makers and generic drug makers that postpone the entry of generic drugs on the market. The measure has the potential to make a huge difference to consumers currently unable to afford their brand-name prescription drugs. Generic drugs usually cost 80-90% less than the equivalent brand name drug. During a hearing when the bill was introduced just over two months ago, testimony before the subcommittee suggested that these settlements have cost consumers about $12 billion per year since they became common in approximately 2005. [FN1] This is supported by an FTC estimate that early market entry of the generic form of only four brand name drugs (Zantac, Prozac, Taxol, and Platinol) has saved consumers and providers over $9 billion in health care costs. [FN2]
These settlements arise in part due to the laws governing the early entry of generic drugs to the market. Under current law (the Hatch-Waxman Act) the generic drug maker may apply to the FDA for approval to market and sell a generic version of a brand name drug if they feel the drug’s patent is invalid. The brand name drug maker nearly always responds by suing the generic company for patent infringement.
Since approximately 2005, brand name drug companies have been settling these patent disputes by buying-off the generic companies with multi-million dollar settlements. (See our cases on Provigil, Oxycontin, Cipro, Tamoxifen, and K-Dur.)
Current PAL member lawsuits on Provigil and Oxycontin are challenging these ‘pay-for-delay” settlements, and other PAL member lawsuits on Protonix and Wellbutrin will likely result in such a settlement. Past PAL-member lawsuits have lost challenges to these settlements in two of the three federal circuit courts to address the issue (K-Dur in the 11th Circuit and Tamoxifen in the 2nd Circuit) while only the 6th Circuit (in a non-PAL lawsuit, In re Cardizem CD Antitrust Litig., 332 F.3d 896, 908 (6th Cir. 2003)) and the FTC continue to reject these settlements as anti-competitive. H.R. 1706 would ultimately resolve the mixed results encountered by lawsuits.
H.R. 1706 would deem any payment between a brand name drug maker and a generic manufacturer to settle a patent infringement dispute to be an unfair and deceptive practice, and an unfair method of competition under the Section 5 of the FTC Act (15 USC § 45).
These “pay-for-delay” settlements also allow a loophole under the Hatch-Waxman Act to prevent any other generic manufacturer from subsequently applying to bring that generic drug to market until 6 months after the first generic company has done so. Therefore, if a brand name drug maker pays off the first generic company, which holds this 6 month period of exclusivity, no other generic company can bring that same generic to the market until after the original patent expires. For these reasons, these settlement agreements are highly anti-competitive and harmful to consumers.
The bill al (more…)
Thursday, November 13th, 2008
The Center for Progressive Reform < (CPR)issued this week a report called "Protecting Public Health and the Environment by the Stroke of a Presidential Pen: Seven Executive Orders for the President’s First 100 Days,”
As CPR’s Blog describes,
Through Executive Orders, a President exercises his broad authority over the executive branch; and in so doing can have a profound influence on how the federal government responds to important policy issues. By directing federal agencies to focus on particular priorities, and by reshaping the internal processes by which agencies do their business, President Obama can impose new policies, while at the same time sending a clear message to Americans and the world that change is under way.
Readers of this blog know that we frequently write about FDA preemption of consumer lawsuits against drug companies. The Supreme Court just heard on November 3 arguments in Wyeth v. Levine, a case that could very well shut the Courthouse doors across the U.S. to consumers who’ve been injured by unsafe drugs. Wyeth, the drug company defendant in the case, argued that the lawsuit against it for failing to warn musician Diana Levine and the medical staff that cared for her that a particular method of administering the anti-nausea drug Phenergan could cause gangrene should be preempted by the FDA’s authority to approve prescription drug labels. Most observers expect the Supreme Court to decide in Wyeth’s favor, and to say that consumers cannot file lawsuits alleging drug company “failures to warn.”
But the push for preemption in the past several years has not just been in the Courts. The FDA too has been aggressively arguing for preemption for the past 8 years. The FDA actively intervened in numerous lawsuits on unsafe drugs and medical devices to argue for preemption. In 2006, the FDA included a lengthy “preamble” in its revised rules on drug labelling requirements that argued that such lawsuits are/should be preempted. And the FDA’s new “Changes Being Effected” regulations, enacted in late August, (about when drugmakers can change the label of their drugs to include new information on risks) seems designed to preempt such suits as well.
This 8-year push for preemption is in stark contrast to the FDA’s previous approach to the subject for many years, which was to treat such suits as complementary to the FDA’s regulation of drugs and not antagonistic.
CPR proposes that the Obama administration adopt an Executive Order on preemption, or, specifically an order that would amend the existing Executive Order on Federalism. The main feature of their proposed Order would be to restore the traditional “presumption against preemption” (i.e. in order to preserve the powers that States are granted under the constitution — see, e.g. the Tenth Amendment– it should be presumed that state laws do NOT conflict with federal law unless shown otherwise.) They also propose a number of specific procedures that federal agencies like the FDA would need to follow to get White House approval before they take an action or position in favor of preemption.
Such an Executive Order would be a step in the right direction, at least in terms of halting the FDA’s (and other federal agencies) eight-year battle to limit the rights of states to protect public health and safety. But such an Order would not do anything to reverse a finding in favor of the pharmaceutical industry in Wyeth v. Levine (a decision is not expected from the Supreme Court until sometime in the first half of 2009).
To do that, Congress would have to step in and pass a law essentially reversing a Supreme Court decision in favor of preemption. Earlier this year, in Riegel v. Medtronic, the Supreme Court held that patient claims about unsafe medical devices are preempted, and more than 80 members of Congress and Senators are trying to restore patients’ rights to sue device companies in such cases with the Medical Device Safety Act. (H.R.6381 and S.3398). It is virtually certain that a similar bill will be filed if and when the Supreme Court decides in Wyeth’s favor.
An Executive Order also arguably wouldn’t do anything to affect the preemptive effect of the FDA’s Changes Being Effected regulations, which have already been promulgated and which stand as the “law of the land” for now. To undo the preemptive effect of those rules would most likely require that the FDA amend those regulations. Whether the new administration at the FDA will seek to tackle that remains to be seen — given the scandals that have rocked the FDA over the past few years, there may be bigger fish to fry (food safety, inspections of foreign drug manufacturing plants, etc.)
But an Executive Order would be important – not just to ensure that the Executive branch thinks long and hard before it tramples on the traditional powers of the States to protect public health and safety, but to change the tone and tenor of federal agencies’ approach to the issue. A restoration of the “presumption of preemption” in the FDA (and other federal agencies) would naturally affect what new regulations are promulgated, what old regulations are amended or scrapped, whether the FDA chooses to intervene in private lawsuits and what position it takes when it does so, what the FDA’s overall priorities are, and even what laws and regulations States pass – right now, the fear of preemption has a chilling effect on what measures States and state agencies will put into place to protect the public from unsafe drugs, food, and medical devices.