Several companies announce settlements of charges related to the False Claims Act, CMS releases new information to help with system registration and data submissions, and the National Coalition on Healthcare holds a lively panel session on the Sunshine Act.

Laissez les bons temps rouler, y’all! The end of the Carnival season is here and yesterday was the big send off…Fat Tuesday! Or as you may know it, Mardi Gras. Yes, a time of frolic, frivolity, and according to Turbo Tax, a number of incidents that can affect the filing of your taxes for the next year. Whether you partied until the wee hours in NOLA, or just enjoyed the simple fun of a pancake dinner at home, we hope it was a great celebration. Now it’s time for our regular look back at some of the “celebrated” compliance news of the week, with this edition of the Compliance News in Review.

We start today’s parade with settlement news for several industry companies. Medtronic agreed to pay $2.9 million to settle allegations it violated the False Claims Act. The government alleges the company caused claims to be submitted to Medicare and Medicaid for an investigational procedure. Next, AstraZeneca paid $7.9 million to settle charges it violated the False Claims Act. The company is alleged to have paid kickbacks to PBM Medco in exchange for Nexium’s “solely and exclusively” being maintained on Medco’s formulary. The government claims the kickbacks were provided as prices concessions on other AstraZeneca drugs. Finally, a physician has pled guilty to accepting kickbacks from two pharmaceutical companies in exchange for prescribing the drug, Clozapine. The physician received nearly $600,000 in kickbacks and benefits from IVAX and later, Teva. He also agreed to pay over $3 million to settle a parallel civil case.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has been busy tossing beads and doubloons to the industry in the form of advice and consultation. Another Open Payments Q&A session was held just this past week, and in advance of the Q&A session, CMS released several new resources covering system registration and data submissions. The agency has also posted the audio from the January Q&A session.

Speaking of the Q&A session, the February session covered a couple of important topics for industry stakeholders. First, it was announced that a fix would occur over the Valentine’s Day/Presidents Day weekend that should resolve most of the problems that companies are having with submission of the 2013 data. On the downside, attendees were notified that the release of the Validated Physician List has been delayed. CMS is hoping to have the list ready by February 20. Those on the call were reminded that this list is only comprised of physicians for whom a 2013 record was submitted. CMS is scheduling a full day to take stakeholder questions. As soon as a date is nailed down, it will be announced on the Open Payments website and via a listserv email.

It wasn’t exactly cause for great celebration, but a recent briefing held by the National Coalition on Healthcare led to the call for expanded requirements under the Sunshine Act. The panel was comprised of individuals from the government, physician groups and the Pew Charitable Trust. A representative from Senator Grassley’s office explained that ultimate goal of the Sunshine Act was to spur an open discussion between patients and their doctors. The founder of PharmedOut, an organization that advocates against pharmaceutical marketing influence in medicine, took the harshest stance, saying the law wasn’t strict enough. She accused companies of seeking out the family and friends of physicians as an avenue for delivering marketing messages, and expressed grave concern about the industry engaging in disease state awareness. Drug samples were a hot topic. A representative from the AMA says there is a gap in transparency where the provision of samples is concerned and he believes providing samples is “misdirected and unsafe.” The founder of PharmedOut agreed, stating that patients should refuse samples and ask for older drugs that have stood the test of time.

That’s about it for the edition of our weekly look back on all the news fit to blog. As we get closer to spring (albeit, slowly for those of us in the Northeast), and the annual POAs are in the rear view mirror, this is as good as time as any to clean up your commercial compliance training. With transparency extending beyond the U.S., shouldn’t your training do the same? The newest addition to our PharmaCertify™ suite of off-the-shelf eLearning modules, Global Transparency: Reporting HCP and HCO Transfers of Value covers the key provisions of the EFPIA Disclosure Code, French Sunshine Act (Loi Bertrand) and the Medicines Australia Code of Conduct. Contact Sean Murphy at smurphy@nxlevelsolutions.com to learn more and see a content outline.

Have a great week everyone!