Compliance News in Review, July 10, 2015

The government targets Novartis for False Claims violations, pharmaceutical companies map out a plan to keep medication flowing into Greece throughout the crisis, and the industry as a whole ponders the impact of the CMS release of 2014 transparency data.

The days are long and lazy – it’s time for summer vacation! From the beach, to the mountains to foreign destinations, the News in Review staff is finalizing plans for summer R&R. Rest assured though, we are still hard at work keeping up with all the compliance news fit to blog, starting with this sun splashed edition of the Compliance News in Review.

The Justice Department and 11 states are putting a dent in the Novartis vacation account with a $3.4 billion charge for damages and fines in a False Claims Act case involving kickbacks to pharmacies. According to prosecutors, the company offered rebate and discount programs to pharmacies in exchange for increased prescriptions of two drugs. Novartis disputes the allegations and says it will continue to defend itself. A trial has been set for November.

Pharma companies are mapping out a plan to keep medication rolling into Greece. According to the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), the complexity and fragmented nature of the Greek medicine supply chain makes the flow of medication vulnerable. Pfizer, Roche and Novartis said they have plans to ease any shortages during the crisis, and AstraZeneca and GSK have both said they are drawing up contingency plans to keep medicines in supply.

CMS and agg spend folks are probably ready for a break in their routine now that the 2014 Open Payments data has been published. The data shows that companies paid physicians almost $6.5 billion for the year, with over 11 million transactions reported. Research payments topped the list with over $3 billion paid, there were $2.5 billion in general payments and $700K was reported on the ownership reports. CMS was able to validate close to 99% of records submitted to the system, which is a vast improvement over the 2013 data. As was the case in 2014, the majority of the reported payments were small. Sixty-six percent were for payments of less than $20. Research and royalty payments represented the largest dollar amounts.

Once the Open Payments data was released, the numbers quickly found their way into the media. The focus on payments to physician and the influence those payments have on prescribing decisions and healthcare at large is at an all-time high. That level of scrutiny highlights the need for training on the Sunshine Act and Open Payments – especially for those interacting with HCPs. While much of the work related to the reporting requirements is a “back office” function, those interacting with HCPs are often the first to hear concerns from the field and they need to be prepared.

In addition, the public release of the data opens companies to examination of their business practices from whistleblowers and enforcement agencies. Critical evaluation of training is important. Are all the appropriate audiences being covered? Is the training up to date? Is a refresher required? Regular audits of training curriculums and plans are key to reducing the risk of questionable payments, and could spare the company expensive costs down the road.

Have a great weekend!

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