Intended for healthcare professionals


Firm bribed doctors to prescribe overpriced drug, US alleges in suit

BMJ 2019; 365 doi: (Published 02 May 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;365:l2043
  1. Owen Dyer
  1. Montreal, Canada

The US government has joined two whistleblower lawsuits as a co-plaintiff against the drug firm Mallinckrodt, accusing the company of paying kickbacks to doctors to increase prescriptions of a drug whose price has risen more than 97 000%, from $40 a vial in 2000 to nearly $39 000 (£30 000; €35 000) today.

The lawsuits allege that cash payments, gifts, and junkets drove a small number of doctors to make HP Acthar Gel (repository corticotropin injection), a blockbuster drug with annual sales totalling more than $1bn, much of it coming from Medicare.

Approved in 1952 to treat spasms in infants, Acthar has come to be used in adult conditions as varied as nephrotic syndrome, psoriatic or rheumatoid arthritis, sarcoidosis, optic neuritis, ankylosing spondylitis and, most lucratively, multiple sclerosis.

But in addition to healthy profits the drug …

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