Novo Nordisk Reaches USD 58.65 million Settlement with US Department of Justice over Allegedly Illegal Marketing for Victoza

Novo Nordisk (Denmark) has agreed to pay $58.65 million to end a federal investigation by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) related to the company’s diabetes medication marketing practices, reports Bloomberg News. The investigation was launched in February 2011 into sales and marketing activities concerning Novo Nordisk’s leading type 2 diabetes drug Victoza. The financial terms of the agreement mean that Novo Nordisk will pay about $46.5 million as settlement to the federal government and to US states responsible for reimbursing Victoza under the Medicaid program. Furthermore, Novo Nordisk has agreed to pay $12.15 million to resolve complaints lodged by the US administration on behalf of the FDA.  The alleged off-label marketing unnecessarily increased the costs for government healthcare programs while allegedly endangering patients, according to the whistleblower complaints and the government.

EU starts in-depth probe of Bayer, Monsanto deal

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Reuters reports that the European Commission has started an in-depth investigation of Bayer’s planned $66 billion takeover of U.S. seeds group Monsanto, saying it was worried about competition in various pesticide and seeds markets. The deal would create the world’s largest integrated pesticides and seeds company, the Commission said, adding this limited the number of competitors selling herbicides and seeds in Europe.  If the deal goes through, the newly merged company will be one of the largest agrochemical firms in the world and could put 90 percent of the world’s food supply in the hands of only four multinational corporations.

Take the Generic Drug, Patients Are Told — Unless Insurers Say No

Faced with competition, some pharmaceutical companies are cutting deals with insurance companies to favor their brand-name products over cheaper generics, reports Pro Publica and The New York Times. Insurers pay less, but sometimes consumers pay more. Out of public view, corporations are cutting deals that give consumers little choice but to buy brand-name drugs — and sometimes pay more at the pharmacy counter than they would for generics. The practice is not easy to track, and has been going on sporadically for years. But several clues suggest it is becoming more common.

Massachusetts consumer and health care groups called on lawmakers to rein in skyrocketing prescription drug prices

MASSPIRG, Health Care For All, Health Law Advocates and others urged the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Health Care Financing to support S.652, An Act to promote transparency and prevent price gouging of pharmaceutical drug prices. The bill requires pharmaceutical manufacturers to disclose detailed information on the underlying cost components and pricing of the most expensive drugs including costs of production, R&D, marketing, rebates and discounts, and prices charged to purchasers outside of the U.S., among other information. The bill also authorizes intervention by state health care agencies and the Attorney General’s Office when pricing practices are determined to be gouging or unjustified. “Skyrocketing prescription drug prices are leading to higher health care costs for Massachusetts residents,” said Deirdre Cummings, Legislative Director at MASSPIRG. “In fact, according to an analysis of state data we submitted as testimony to the committee, rising pharmaceutical prices have a disproportionately high impact on Massachusetts health care premiums.”

Canadian drug makers assailed for lack of transparency over payments

Ten of Canada’s largest pharmaceutical companies, reports Toronto’s Globe and Mail, have revealed that together they spent at least $48.3-million on payments to physicians and health-care organizations last year, a voluntary disclosure that critics of Big Pharma say falls well short of genuine transparency.  The figures provided a peek into how drug makers compensate Canada’s physicians for consulting, delivering speeches, sitting on advisory boards and traveling to international medical conferences. But the companies did not name any of the doctors, nor did they reveal the total number of physicians they paid or the amounts they provided to doctors for running clinical trials.

Conflicts of interest in health care journalism. Who’s watching the watchdogs?

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Many journalists are aware of the drug industry’s attempts to gain positive attention by buying placement within the nation’s health care news.  A few occasionally write or talk about it, as Harder and Rosenthal did publicly. But, writes Gary Schwitzer in Health News Review, we don’t talk often enough about why it matters if health care industry entities are allowed to advertise within, or sponsor, health care journalism content.  Americans spend more than $3 trillion on health care. Conflicts of interest in health care and research are rampant. But who talks about conflicts of interest in health care journalism? There is a great potential harm in journalists – and the audience they serve – becoming numb to the presence of and influence of drug companies and other industry entities in the news and information disseminated to the public.  In a three part series, Health News Review examines this problem. Read Part 1.  Read Part 2.

Nassau County Sues Drugmakers Over Opioid Epidemic

Nassau County on Long Island  filed a lawsuit Monday against several pharmaceutical companies, alleging their prescription painkillers helped fuel the opioid epidemic that costs the county millions of dollars annually to combat, reports the Wall Street Journal. The complaint, filed in Nassau County Supreme Court, targets several companies including Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., Purdue Pharma LP and Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. The defendants also include drug distributors and doctors.

EpiPen: “Do what’s right, not what’s easy”?

After the national outrage over EpiPen’s increase of the price of a box epinephrine injections to $609 last August, Mylan, the manufacturer, promised to live up to its motto of doing what’s right, not what’s easy.  But, writes Charles Duhigg in The New York Times, last week regulators said the company had most likely overcharged Medicaid by $1.27 billion for EpiPens and the retail price of a box was still $609. The device contains about $1 of the drug epinephrine.

Big Pharma by the Numbers

A recent article in The New York Times provided insights into the pharmaceutical industry’s efforts to ensure that any new policies to lower drug prices would not hurt their profits.

In the first quarter of this year, the pharmaceutical and health products industry spent $78 million on lobbying, 14% more than in the same period last year.

In the 2016 election cycle, the industry contributed more than $58 million to the election campaigns of members of Congress and presidential candidates, a 20% jump from the 2012 cycle

The industry pays 1,100 lobbyists, more than two for each member of Congress.

Last year Representative John Shimkus, Republican from Illinois, helped persuade the Obama Administration to kill a project that would have lowered drug prices in Medicare Part B, which spent $24.6 billion on prescription drugs in 2015. In the last election cycle, Shimkus received $300,00 in drug industry contributions.

Types and Distribution of Payments from Industry to Physicians in 2015

According to data from 2015 Open Payments reports, reports a new study in JAMA, 48% of physicians were reported to have received a total of $2.4 billion in payments from biomedical and pharmaceutical industries and group purchasing organizations.  Physicians in surgical vs primary care specialties and male vs female physicians had a higher likelihood and higher value of payments.