News in Review, August 11, 2015

Industry support of CME increases in 2014,  NuVasive settles False Claims charges while Mead Johnson deals with FCPA charges, and Amarin wins a preliminary injunction in its off-label case against the FDA.

The dog days of summer have certainly arrived in most of the U.S. with temperatures that are best described as hot, hot, hot! Thanks to Willis Carrier and his wonderful invention, we can at least find occasional respite from the sun’s rays and the humidity. So while you wait for a break in the heatwave, crank the A/C up a few notches, grab a cool beverage, and just chill with this edition of the Compliance News in Review.

According to a report from the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), industry support of CME increased 2.4% in 2014. According to the report, industry support represented about a quarter of all CME revenue in 2014, whereas in 2007, that support was closer to half (46%) of CME revenue. Physician attendance at CME dropped by just over one percent, but non-physician attendance rose six percent.

The heat is off for NuVasive now that it has settled with the DOJ. The company has agreed to pay $13.5 million to settle charges it violated the False Claims Act by marketing a product for surgical uses for which it was not approved. According to the government, the company marketed its CoRoent System for several spinal surgical procedures for which it was not approved. The DOJ also claimed kickbacks, in the form of speaker fees honoraria, were paid to induce physicians to use the system. The company was also accused of paying kickbacks for physicians to attend events hosted by Society of Lateral Access Surgery (SOLAS), an organization that was entirely organized and funded by NuVasive.

Mead Johnson entered into a settlement with the SEC to resolve charges it bribed Chinese government healthcare workers to recommend its infant formula, in violation of the FCPA. According to the SEC, the company funded the payments through distributor allowance funds paid to a third-party distributor, and then directed the third-party on how those funds were to be used. Allegedly, the payments were not properly reflected in the company’s books and records.

Insys also finds itself in the doghouse; or in this case, we’ll say the duck house (okay, it’s a reach, but stay with us here). Insys Therapeutics has entered into a settlement with Oregon to resolve a deceptive marketing case. The State claims the company marketed an opioid painkiller for treating mild pain that was only approved for treating pain in cancer patients who are not responding to other types of painkillers. The State also claims the company paid physicians for writing prescriptions and used unqualified physicians to promote the product. The settlement will be split between the State and an organization dedicated to the prevention of opioid abuse, which will be selected by Oregon’s Attorney General.

So it appears, this off-label promotion dog can hunt. Amarin, the company suing the FDA over its ability to promote its fish-oil drug for off-label uses, has won a preliminary injunction against the agency. The injunction is not a final order, but for now, the FDA cannot prevent Amarin from the truthful off-label promotion of its product. The drug is approved for treating patients with very high levels of triglycerides. Amarin would like to promote the drug for use with patients that have moderately elevated triglycerides levels, despite being on a statin.

Like the Caronia decision before it, the Amarin case certainly raises interesting questions about the future of truthful off-label promotion. While a compliance training session may not be the place and time to delve into a discussion of that future, the decision does present an opportunity to discuss off-label promotion and how to address questions related to off-label use. Why not take this opportunity to launch refresher training, or distribute an updated, quick-reference communication piece? On-going reminders about what constitutes off-label promotion, and the policies your organization has in place to address unsolicited questions, are part of any effective compliance curriculum. The case also creates an opportunity to work with commercial team managers on a plan to increase the dialogue about the topic with their teams. Off-label is in the news and the training opportunities abound.

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