Louisville drug company to pay $17.5M to settle kickback charges

US WorldMeds, a pharmaceutical company based in Louisville, Ky., will pay $17.5 million to resolve allegations that it paid kickbacks to patients and physicians to improperly boost prescriptions for two of its drugs.

US WorldMeds substantially raised the price of Apokyn, which treats the loss of muscle movement control caused by Parkinson's disease, in January 2012. The decision increased Medicare patients' copays, according to the lawsuit.

Prosecutors claim that after causing the copays for Apokyn to go up with its price hike, US WorldMeds  then illegally picked up the tab for those copays for Medicare patients through a third-party foundation.

The lawsuit also claims that US WorldMeds paid kickbacks, in the form of "excessive" speaking and consulting fees and lavish vacations, including trips to the Kentucky Derby, to two physicians to boost prescriptions for Apokyn and Myobloc, a medication that treats neck pain caused by severe muscle spasms in the neck.

"Kickback schemes can undermine our healthcare system, compromise medical decisions and waste taxpayer dollars," said Phillip Coyne, special agent in charge at the federal Office of the Inspector General. "We will continue to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for subverting the charitable donation process in order to circumvent safeguards designed to protect the integrity of the Medicare program."

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