Gilead settles kickback allegations for $97M

Gilead agreed to pay a $97 million settlement for allegations it used a charity to pay illegal kickbacks to Medicare patients to cover copays for its high blood pressure drug Letairis.

The Department of Justice alleged the drugmaker paid Caring Voice Coalition from 2007-10, and the charity used the money to cover out-of-pocket Letairis costs for Medicare patients. It also accused Gilead of referring Medicare patients to the charity.

The department purported Gilead made payments to cover the Medicare patients' copays so Letairis' price wouldn't deter them from filling a prescription.

"Such conduct not only violates the anti-kickback statute, it also undermines the Medicare program's co-pay structure, which Congress created as a safeguard against inflated drug prices," U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said in a Sept. 23 DOJ news release. "During the period covered by today's settlement, Gilead raised the price of Letairis by over seven times the rate of overall inflation in the United States."

The drugmaker issued a Sept. 23 statement in which general counsel Brett Pletcher said the settlement "is not an admission of guilt by Gilead and there was never any allegation in this case that patients who received aid and medication did not need it or did not benefit from it."

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