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Amgen to pay $762 million settlement over drug marketing

By Jessica Dye,

NEW YORK — Amgen pleaded guilty in a New York federal court Tuesday for improper marketing practices involving its once top-selling Aranesp anemia drug, and prosecutors said the company has agreed to pay $762 million in a civil settlement and criminal fines.

The world’s largest biotechnology company had set aside funds it expected to have to pay as a result of federal and state investigations, as well as nearly a dozen civil whistleblower lawsuits.

Federal prosecutors said in court that the company had agreed to pay $612 million in a civil settlement, a $14 million criminal forfeiture payment and a $136 million criminal fine.

Amgen entered the guilty plea to one misdemeanor count. Acting U.S. Attorney Marshall Miller confirmed that under the agreement Amgen will not lose any federal business or contracts. Exclusion from federal programs, such as Medicare, could have crippled its business.

Aranesp, primarily used to treat anemia in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, remains one of Amgen’s largest drugs with sales of $2.3 billion in 2011.

Amgen was accused of promoting Aranesp for anemia caused by cancer, for which it was not approved, rather than to combat anemia as a side effect of chemotherapy treatments. The company also was accused of pushing higher doses and more convenient treatment schedules than what was approved in the drug’s label for cancer and chronic kidney disease patients.

The government said the illegal practices were undertaken in part to help Amgen take market share from Johnson & Johnson’s similar anemia drug Procrit.

— Reuters

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