Open Payments Funding and Another Kickback Case in the News

An Open Payments letter from two senators, a list of diabetes drugs from Nevada, near silence from the Office of Prescription Drug and Promotion (OPDP), and an unsealed kickback case…all in this edition of the Compliance News in Review.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner! There’s nothing like a day of food, family, friends, and parades (and of course, football!) to kick off the holiday season. Can’t you just smell the turkey and fixings permeating the hallways and your olfactory senses now? Before we go unpack our “Thanksgiving pants,” we’ll leave you with a different type of tasty morsel: a new edition of the Compliance News in Review. Bon appetit!

Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chuck Grassley don’t want to see CMS’s Center for Program Integrity (CPI) left at the kids’ table. They sent a letter to the acting Health and Human Services Secretary urging that funding for the CPI be made a priority. The CPI is responsible for managing the Open Payments database. The letter includes references to “recent reports that have raised concerns about the effect payments to health professionals may have on opioid prescribing practices, which in many ways has exacerbated this ongoing public health epidemic.”

Nevada’s Department of Health and Human Services published its list of three dozen diabetes drugs that are subject to the State’s new transparency law. Manufacturers with a drug on the list will have to report a variety of financial information, including costs associated with production the drug; rebates and coups offered; and profits earned from the drug. Regulations for reporting the information are still pending.

Will the OPDP pass on dessert at Thanksgiving Dinner? OPDP is on pace to issue a record low number of letters this year. So far, only two letters have been issued. In 2016, the agency issued five in the first six months, then in December, it issued six more. The letter count has steadily declined over the last sixteen years. Will 2017 will be a record low?

On the social media front, Twitter upped its character limit to 280, and according to social media manager, Andrew Grojean, pharmaceutical marketers should take advantage of the expanded word count. Grojean says the change does not solve all the issues related to use of the platform, but it provides more freedom and flexibility, as well as more space for the required fair balance.

Did Eli Lilly over stuff the turkey? A recently unsealed whistle blower case alleges that the company provided kickbacks to boost sales of its drugs. According to the suit, the company offered nursing services to HCPs through a third-party to induce doctors to prescribe three of its drugs. Allegedly, the nurses essentially acted as sales reps even though they were supposed to be providing independent medical advice and disease state education.

With that, we end this holiday edition of the Compliance News in Review. In the spirit of the season, we are thankful to all who take the time to read our tome on a regular basis, and as always, we invite you to contact our editor, Sean Murphy, with your feedback. He can be reached at smurphy@nxlevelsolutions.com.

Have a fun and festive Thanksgiving holiday!

Friday the 13th Brings Multiple Settlements for One Unlucky Company

CMS posts new Open Payments thresholds, MedTech Europe revises its Code, California deals with two new pharmaceutical laws, and multiple settlements are announced for one “unlucky” pharmaceutical company…in this Friday the 13th edition of the Compliance News in Review.

Be careful what you wish for, Freaky Friday (a.k.a. Friday the 13th) has arrived. Steer clear of those sidewalk cracks, black cats, and broken mirrors! We prefer to focus more on the “Friday” part of the date stamp rather than the “13th.” Whether you’re working for the weekend, or just counting down the minutes until it officially begins, we offer the latest edition of the Compliance News in Review to help you whittle away the hours until the superstitions have subsided.

Change doesn’t have to always be scary. MedTech Europe, a joint venture of EucoMed and European Diagnostic Manufacturers Association, changed its Code of Ethical Business Practice. Changes include the phasing out of direct sponsorship for HCPs to attend medical conferences; enhanced transparency of educational grants; and new guidelines for demonstration products and samples. In addition, starting in 2018, members will only be able to provide educational grant support for meetings that have been vetted by the organization.

The “lucky” numbers for the Open Payments reporting thresholds for 2018 have been posted by CMS. The small payments, or de minimis threshold, was raised to $10.49, and the annual aggregate threshold was raised to $104.90.

California passed two new laws affecting the pharmaceutical industry. First, SB 17 requires health plans and insurers to report information about drug pricing. The information will be compiled into a report showing how drug pricing effects health insurance premiums. The law also requires drug manufacturers to notify purchasers 90 days in advance if a drug’s wholesale acquisition cost (WAC) is going to increase.

AB 265 prohibits prescription drug manufacturers from offering assistance to lower out of pocket costs, if a lower-cost generic equivalent drug is available. Exceptions include the discounts required under an FDA Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS); single-tablet drug regimens for the treatment of HIV or AIDS that are as effective as a multi-tablet regimen; and completion of step therapy or prior authorization requirements for a branded drug, as mandated by the individual’s health coverage.

Time to start throwing copious amounts of salt over the shoulder at Aegerion. The company pled guilty and pay over $35 million to settle criminal and civil charges that it violated the FDCA, HIPAA, and the False Claims Act. According to the Department of Justice, Aegerion did not follow the proper Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy when educating prescribers about the rare cholesterol condition its drug was approved to treat. The government also claimed the company filed a misleading REMS report and promoted the drug for the general treatment of high cholesterol, all in violation of the FDCA.

Aegerion also resolved civil charges it violated the False Claims Act. The company allegedly shared misleading information about its drug, altered or falsified statements of medical necessity or prior authorization to federal healthcare programs, and defrayed the copay obligations of patients in federal healthcare programs, which is a violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute.

Following the settlement, the patient assistance organization involved, Patient Services, Inc. (PSI), acknowledged it received a subpoena from the DOJ. PSI said it had cooperated with the government in the case. The organization said it operates “under guidelines set by the U.S. Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General and does not funnel funds for manufacturers.”

Some “strange magic” leads to a $13 million FCPA settlement for Alere to resolve charges it violated the FCPA. The company allegedly paid bribes to meet its revenue targets. According to the SEC, company subsidiaries in India and Colombia used distributors or consultants to make improper payments to foreign officials. The agency said the company failed to maintain adequate internal controls to prevent the payments and recorded the payments incorrectly.

With that, we close out this superstitious edition of the Compliance News in Review. Thanks for reading! Stay safe out there as you navigate the potholes and pitfalls that allegedly lurk in shadows, and no matter what, don’t walk under that ladder!

Life Sciences Compliance Congress West: A Preview

CBI’s 8th Annual Life Sciences Compliance Congress West kicks off in San Francisco in two short weeks. During the packed two-day conference, an esteemed lineup of industry professionals and government regulators will address the emerging risks facing life sciences companies. It’s a great opportunity to share notes and best practices with your peers and industry leaders. If you’re considering attending, we can help with a discount on the registration fee.

In the meantime, we’ve perused the agenda to note the sessions that hold the most interest:

Day 1

Session: Industry’s Guide to GDPR

The General Data Protection Regulation of the European Union, or GDPR, applies to companies that control or process the personal data of EU citizens, regardless of geographic location. That’s a wide reach, and your employees need to understand how their role helps ensure compliance with this new and potentially confusing regulation.

Session: Navigate the Complexities of Patient Assistant Programs (PAPs), Reimbursement Support and Patient Services Compliance in an Era of Ambiguity

Industry assistance for patients is an emerging enforcement area in the U.S. and abroad. Several U.S. companies have received subpoenas from the DOJ centered on their relationship with patients assistance organizations. This session covers the compliance issues related to patient support and the strategies for reducing risk.

Session: Small to Mid-Sized Boot Camp

We may be a little biased on this one, since our own Dan O’Connor, Senior Vice President of PharmaCertify, will join Jim Schneider of Seattle Genetics and Jane Wright-Mitchell of AcelRx to cover compliance governance considerations and key elements of compliance program development. It’s a must-attend for anyone building out a curriculum for an emerging company.

Day 2

Keynote Session: A Journey to the Dark Side of International Business and Steps to Protect Your Organization

Presented by a former FCPA Violator turned FBI/UK Cooperator, the session covers a range of international business practices and pitfalls. We expect topics to include privacy; patient interactions; bribery; and compliance risks when conducting business internationally, all critical information whether you’re updating an existing compliance training curriculum, or building one from scratch.

Session: Operations Management — Align Compliance Strategy with Emerging Risks on the Horizon for 2018

As new life sciences compliance risks emerge, training content, and the methods by which those risks are addressed, need to evolve. This session may offer tips for identifying curriculum gaps as well as the overall program adjustments needed to strengthen your curriculum and reduce risk.

Summary

We’re looking forward to catching up with our friends and clients at the 8th Annual Life Sciences Compliance Congress West. If you’re attending, don’t forget to stop by our booth to say hi and see demos of our newest Compliance Foundations™ eLearning modules, QuickTakes™ reinforcement tools, and compliance workshops. While there, don’t forget to enter our drawing to win a JBL Flip 4 Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker.

See you in San Francisco!

Compliance News in Review, September 8, 2017

Attention students! This week in the news: an opioid marketing Warning Letter; more state level transparency requirementss; and Novo Nordisk learns a tough lesson about product marketing.

The wheels on the bus are going ‘round and ‘round for children all over the country. School is back in session. Time to sharpen those pencils (do kids still use pencils?) and organize that Trapper Keeper. Sorry kids, but we kind of like this time of the year. After all, the deals on office supplies can’t be beat! Can one ever have enough index cards and three prong folders? While we go bask in the glow of our school supply haul, we’ll leave you with a little reading assignment: the latest edition of the Compliance News in Review.

Opioid manufacturer, Cipher Pharmaceuticals, didn’t have a letter sent home by the teacher, but it was issued a Warning Letter by the Office of Prescription Drug Promotion for misbranding its drug, ConZip. The company licenses the drug to Vertical Pharmaceuticals for sales. The letter references a sales aid that failed to disclose the risks associated with use of the product.

Don’t offer the teacher too many of those apples…at least in New Jersey. In the Garden State, Governor Christie wants to place restrictions on transfers of value to HCPs. The regulation limits compensation for “bona fide” arrangements up to $10,000 per year. It requires the arrangements to be in writing, with the HCP’s qualifications clearly stated in the agreement. The regulation also prohibits receipt of lavish meals, gift cards, and other items of a personal benefit to HCPs. Exclusions are made for payments for speaking at CME events and provision of items for patient education. The regulation will be published to the New Jersey Register in early October and a public hearing is scheduled for October 19.

Two industry trade associations are putting their civics education to work. PhRMA and BIO have filed suit against Nevada over the state’s transparency law. The groups claim the law is unconstitutional, and is preempted by federal law, and they have asked the court to put a halt to the implementation or enforcement of what they consider to be the problematic parts of the law. A representative from BIO said the law effectively establishes price controls on diabetes medication, which in turn will reduce private investment in biomedical innovation. A PhRMA representative said the law is unconstitutional because it conflicts with federal and state laws that protect intellectual property and trade secrets.

The city of Chicago is jumping onboard the drug pricing transparency bus. An ordinance has been proposed that will require manufacturers to report price increases 90 days in advance of sales. The ordinance also proposes the establishment of a Prescription Drug Price Review Board to monitor prices, and a hotline for the public to report information about price increases.

Novo Nordisk agreed to pay over $58 million to settle allegations it violated the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) and the False Claims Act. According to the DOJ, sales representatives downplayed or mislead HCPs about the risk of a rare cancer associated with the use of Victoza when detailing the drug to healthcare professionals. The company will pay $12.5 million in disgorgement for violating the FDCA, and $48.5 million for violating the False Claims Act.

With that, the final bell rings on this edition of the News in Review. We hope the return to the post-Summer school routine is a smooth and seamless one for all involved. We’ll see you around the schoolyard during recess with another edition of the Compliance News in Review.

Compliance News in Review, August 21, 2017

Opioid investigations expand; the FDA plans drug advertising studies; DOJ units team up for healthcare sector FCPA investigations; the Sunshine Act is out in South Korea; and a big settlement could signal a new enforcement avenue; all casting a shadow in this edition of the Compliance News in Review.

Here comes the sun, and the moon, and a shadow. It’s eclipse fever! The total eclipse over the continental U.S. was one for the record books, and had people flocking to places like Alliance, NE, Hopkinsville, KY, and Red Bank, SC. If you couldn’t make it to the path of totality this time, you have seven years to plan for the next event.

The shadow of the investigation into the business practices opioid makers use continues to spread. In an SEC filing, Mylan revealed it has received a subpoena from the Department of Justice (DOJ) for information about its opioid business practices. The company, a relatively small player in the opioid market, said it is cooperating with the request.

The FDA, hoping to shed some light on disclosures in drug advertising, has proposed two studies that will focus on how safety information is perceived. The first study will involve patient recall of important safety information presented in print, direct to consumer ads. The second will include oncologists, primary care physicians, and non-oncology mid-level practitioners. It will focus on the effectiveness of disclosures related to preliminary or descriptive clinical and scientific data.

The DOJ’s Criminal Fraud Section announced a partnership between its Healthcare Fraud Unit’s Corporate Strike Force and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) prosecutors. Speaking at an anticorruption conference, the acting chief of the Criminal Fraud Unit said, “This increased coordination will ensure that companies, their executives, employees, and agents are held to account for the payment of bribes and kickbacks to foreign and domestic officials and actors regardless of the market.” He also urged companies to empower compliance teams to take steps to make their anticorruption programs better.

South Korea is the latest nation to bring sunshine to industry-physician relationships. The country has enacted a transparency law like the U.S. Sunshine Act. The law applies to pharmaceutical and medical device companies, and covers a wide range of recipients including pharmacists, herbalists, and acupuncturists, in addition to physicians. Transfers of value covered by the new law include product samples, academic conference sponsorships, food, beverage, and other items (e.g. pens, notepads). Transfers of value must be reported on one of seven reporting templates, and companies must begin collecting data on January 31, 2018.

Is a bad moon rising over industry relationships with patient assistance charities? Recently, United Therapeutics announced it had reserved $210 million in anticipation of a settlement with the government over activities involving a copay assistance charity. Other companies have disclosed that they are subject to investigations as well. Charities do not face the same restrictions as pharmaceutical companies when offering co-pay assistance and the contributions companies make to charities can be considered kickbacks. According to an attorney with Morgan and Morgan, the United Therapeutics announcement is likely to send “shock waves” through the industry.

With that, we end this shadowy edition of the Compliance News in Review. Until next time, we leave you with a total eclipse of the sun, er…Total Eclipse of the Heart.

Compliance News in Review, July 31, 2017

A whistleblower settlement, the effect of a recent cyberattack on one company’s drug supply, transparency in Ontario, and the growth of CME, all served for your approval in this edition of the Compliance News in Review.

It is the quintessential American food, even if it didn’t originate here; it’s the hamburger. Nothing beats a good burger, even during the hot dog days of summer (see what we did there?). The tasty entrée even inspired the bard of gulf and western music, Jimmy Buffet, to write a song extoling its virtues. So, how do you like your burger? With slaw? Kraut? Chili? Our mouths are watering just pondering the possibilities! Before we fire up the grill here at the News in Review World Headquarters, we’ll serve a tasty treat of a different flavor – the latest edition of the Compliance News in Review.

This is hardly minced meat. Celgene has agreed to pay $280 million to settle claims in a whistleblower suit that accused the company of promoting two of its cancer products for off-label purposes. The whistleblower, a former employee, claims the company directly marketed the drugs for the off-label uses and hid risks of blood clots from physicians. Celgene did not admit to wrongdoing in the settlement.

Still in a bit of pickle following the Petya cyberattack, Merck has warned that some drug supplies may be disrupted as it continues to rebound from the attack. The company’s R&D and manufacturing operations have not yet fully recovered and there may be temporary delays in filling orders for some products.

Ontario doctors may be flipping over a recent judicial decision that will allow the payments they receive from the government insurance program to be published. The Toronto Star filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the names of the top 100 billers. The Ontario Health Ministry refused to provide the names, saying it would be an invasion of privacy. Two doctor groups and the Ontario Medical Association also fought the release of names, arguing that doing so “accomplishes nothing other than naming and shaming.” The judges disagreed, saying the “public is entitled to information in the possession of their governments so that the public may, among other things, hold their governments accountable.”

The Accreditation Council of Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) 2016 report on the growth of CME finds an increase in the number of events (7%), as well as an increase in the number of instructional hours (9%). The study also shows the number of activities and interactions has increased steadily since 2010. ACCME President and CEO, Dr. Graham McMahon, noted that there are currently more than 3,000 hours of CME available to healthcare providers.

That brings us to the end of another “well done” edition of the Compliance News in Review. We’ll see you right back here for the next summertime treatise, and in the meantime, we leave you with a few tips for barbecuing the perfect burger (olive oil…who knew?).

Have a great week!

Compliance News in Review, July 7, 2017

Canadians, Californians, and Mainers are all on the hunt for transparency. Will they find “gold” they seek? Find out in this week’s News in Review.

There’s gold in them thar hills! Seriously. A number of years ago, a man hid an estimated $2 million treasure of gold and jewels somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, leaving only a cryptic poem to guide treasure hunters to the stash. At the time, he said he hoped it would inspire folk to get up off their couches and explore nature. Many have, and unfortunately, a couple of them met an untimely end during that search. As far as anyone knows, the treasure is still out there for the taking, but before we break out our atlases and sharpen our pickaxes, let’s dig into the news of the day in this edition of the Compliance News in Review.

Pharma companies will be able to hold on to their doubloons if an amendment to the California bill prohibiting gifts and restricting payments to doctors stands. Legislators eliminated the penalties associated with the bill, but added a provision that prohibits doctors from receiving payments for speaking or serving as faculty at events that are not accredited by the ACCME or a similar organization.

A pair of Canadian doctors are on the hunt for transparency with a program intended to gain support for more industry/physician transparency. According to one of the doctors, “interaction with industry is everywhere and a lot of progress has come from collaborating,” but he worries that trust will be eroded if they continue to “keep relationships in the dark.”

Providing some clues to the transparency hunt, ten of the largest pharmaceutical companies in Canada released information on transfers of value they provided to healthcare professionals and organizations. The effort was headed by GSK, and included AbbVie, Merck, and Eli Lilly. Total payments for all the companies came in just under $50 million and covered the 2016 calendar year. Critics complained the data provided little real transparency because the figures represented the companies’ aggregate payments to all doctors or healthcare organizations, rather than individual practitioners or organizations.

The release of this data prompted one treasure hunter, Ontario’s health minister, to announce he will investigate the concept of requiring pharmaceutical companies to disclose physician payment data (a la the U.S. Sunshine Act). He said the voluntary release of recent spend data by certain pharmaceutical companies was a good start, and that the government is “committed to strengthening transparency across the healthcare sector.” Consultations into the matter are scheduled for this summer.

Trekking across the Canadian border to Maine, we discover the legislature has passed a bill that will curtail payments from pharmaceutical companies to doctors. The bill prohibits the provision of “cash gifts” but allows non-monetary gifts of “minimal value.” It also allows doctors to receive payments for speaking about research at “legitimate educational conferences.”

For those wishing to do a little prospecting, the Open Payments data for the 2016 is now available. Nearly 1,500 companies reported transactions totaling $8.1 billion. Just over half of the $8 billion went toward research. A billion dollars was paid in ownership interest, and just under $3 billion fell in the general payments categories. Nearly 12 million records were published this year, covering 631,000 physicians and 1,146 teaching hospitals.

There’s a certain theme running through this week’s news bites. Transparency. Governments, academia, and special interest groups, all extol the need for transparency in the relationships between life science companies and healthcare professionals. Although most of the heavy lifting regarding data is typically handled by a small group of dedicated data hounds, others in the organization need to be aware of the laws and their restrictions.

Those who interact with healthcare professionals need to know the types of information that is reported and understand their role in assuring the accurate and timely collection of the data. As the saying goes, “garbage in: garbage out,” and considering that many of these laws carry financial penalties for reporting errant data, companies certainly want to take steps to reduce the “garbage.”

Well, we’ve reached the end of the trail on this edition of the Compliance News in Review. We’ll see you right back here for the next edition.

Thanks for reading!