By Robert Farley
July 17, 2008
Florida will receive $21.5-million as its share of a global settlement with a pharmaceutical giant accused of illegal marketing and pricing of prescription drugs.
Among the allegations that led to the settlement was that Bristol-Myers Squibb illegally promoted the use of Abilify, one of a handful of new-generation antipsychotic drugs whose soaring use in children and nursing home residents has caused alarm among many mental health professionals.
Abilify and other atypical antipsychotics are FDA-approved to treat adult schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. But Abilify carries a black box warning concerning its use in the treatment of dementia. The government alleged Bristol-Myers Squibb created a specialized long-term care sales force that almost exclusively called on nursing homes, where dementia-related psychosis is far more common than schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
And although Abilify was approved earlier this year for use in teens with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, it was not approved for use in children between 2002 and 2005. That’s when, the government alleged, the company directed its sales force to call on child psychiatrists and other pediatric specialists to urge them to prescribe Abilify to their pediatric patients.
In September, the Justice Department announced that Bristol-Myers Squibb and former subsidiary Apothecon Inc. agreed to pay more than $515-million to resolve “a broad array of civil allegations involving their drug marketing and pricing practices.”
Among the other government allegations was that the company paid illegal kickbacks to physicians and other health care providers in the form of consulting fees, and advisory board positions — some of which involved travel to luxury resorts — to induce them to prescribe their drugs. The government also claimed the company set inflated prices for a wide assortment of oncology and generic drugs, and misrepresented its best price for an anti-depression drug, driving up costs to Medicaid …