Regeneron paid patient charity millions in kickbacks, lawsuit claims

The U.S. government filed a lawsuit against Regeneron Pharmaceuticals June 24 alleging the Tarrytown, N.Y.-based drugmaker paid kickbacks to a patient assistance charity to cover Medicare copays for its eye disease drug, Eylea, STAT reported.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Boston, accuses Regeneron of using the Chronic Disease Fund to make sure patients didn't have to pay a copayment or deductible for Eylea, which treats macular degeneration. 

A federal law known as the Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits drugmakers from offering to pay any remuneration to Medicare or other federal programs to induce them to purchase their drugs, STAT reported. 

The lawsuit claims that in 2013 and 2014, Regeneron used the kickbacks to intentionally block competition from a cancer drug called Avastin, which was regularly used off-label for treating macular degeneration. 

Avastin costs $55 per vial while Eylea costs $1,850 a vial, according to STAT. By paying the Chronic Disease Fund to use Eylea, Regeneron was allegedly able to earn a return of about $25 million, more than 400 percent. 

U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling also said Regeneron executives took extensive measures to cover up the scheme. 

But Regeneron told STAT, "There is no merit to the civil complain. It is unfortunate that a misguided lawsuit is attempting to assign wrongful intent to entirely legal conduct. Regeneron has fully cooperated with the government’s investigation and will vigorously defend the company’s case."

The payments to the Chronic Disease Fund were "lawful, charitable donations," according to Regeneron. 

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