Compliance News in Review, November 18, 2016

Bring on the turkey, cranberries and uncomfortable family interactions! Thanksgiving is almost here. Soon enough, the stress of all that preparation will melt away as we share meals with friends and family, and depending on how you look at it, a day of crazed shopping the day after will either offer a little more relief or send the stress level right back to record levels. Before your planning kicks into full gear, we offer this small helping of all the compliance news fit to blog, in this edition of the Compliance News in Review. Get it while it’s hot!

The FDA and industry representatives gathered around the table for a two-day public hearing regarding off-label marketing. The agency’s long held opinion remains the same – sharing information about a use that has not been proven safe and effective presents a risk to public health. Industry representatives argued that in a changing healthcare environment, where prescribing decisions are not made exclusively by physicians, the FDA needs to end regulatory barriers and issue clear regulations permitting the sharing of truthful, non-misleading information. The FDA also expressed concerns about the effect that sharing off-label information would have on the industry’s incentive to conduct well-controlled, randomized studies, and that physicians may not have the time to discern what information is misleading.

Former Valeant executives and employees of the specialty pharmacy, Philidor, are being charged with engaging in a kickback scheme to the tune of millions of dollars. According to the FBI, a Valeant executive received $10 million from Philidor. The payments were allegedly laundered through a series of shell companies to avoid detection. In response, Valeant noted that the company itself had not been charged, and documents related to the case made it clear the two former executives attempted to defraud the company.

Teva is setting aside a substantial amount of “leftovers” in the form of $520 million to settle bribery allegations from the DOJ and SEC. The allegations are related to activities in Russia, Mexico and the Ukraine. The company said the allegations did not involve its U.S. business, and implied the issues stemmed from third-parties subsidiaries. Teva also announced that its governance program and processes have since been revamped and it has severed ties with the problematic third-party agents.

Pass the lawsuit, please. A Pennsylvania judge has denied GSK’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by 41 insurers over medications manufactured at a now closed GSK facility in Puerto Rico. The medications were allegedly defective, and the insurers claim GSK induced them to purchase the drugs, and then failed to react when the defective drugs were discovered.

Pharmaceutical sales representatives will now need an invitation from the city to work in Chicago. City Council has passed an ordinance requiring all representatives to obtain a license as part of an effort to help stave off improper opioid prescribing. Reps will have to undergo training on ethics, marketing regulations, and other laws. The fee will be $750, and the license must be renewed annually. The ordinance will go into effect in July 2017. Revenue will be used to educate physicians and patients about opioids.

With that, we close this edition of the Compliance News in Review. Thanks for reading and we wish you and your family a happy and healthy Thanksgiving holiday!

Compliance News in Review, July 5, 2016

Another organization calls for a ban on Direct to Consumer advertising, two former industry sales reps are arrested for kickbacks, a former executive is acquitted on kickback charges, and CMS releases update TOV data.

Strike up the band and light up the fireworks! The American Experiment marked its 240th year this weekend. So, it’s fitting that the hottest ticket on Broadway these days is the story of one our nation’s founders. Since most of us won’t be lucky enough (or rich enough) to score tickets to Hamilton in celebration , we had to stick with the old standbys of parades, barbecues, fireworks. To cap the holiday weekend, we offer a new tradition to add to the list, the Independence Day edition of the Compliance News in Review.

The fireworks continue regarding DTC advertising. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists is the latest group to express a desire to see DTC advertising of prescription drugs banned. In the past, the organization has been supportive of the advertising, as long as it meets certain criteria. Since it now believes the industry is ignoring the criteria, the group has withdrawn its support. A spokesperson says a complete ban is not possible, but he hopes this action will lead to a discussion between industry and healthcare providers about DTC ads. The current model of DTC advertising is outdated according to the spokesperson, and pharmacists and providers are spending too much time explaining to patients why drugs they see in ads are not appropriate for them.

A pair of former Insys sales representatives could be losing their independence in the near future. The two were arrested for allegedly paying over $250,000 in kickbacks to doctors who wrote prescriptions for the painkiller fentanyl. The complaint alleges that most of the money was paid for serving as speakers at programs that were essentially social functions. Very little, if any, educational information was shared, according to the complaint, and following the programs, the sales reps would often take the doctors out for drinks and other entertainment. In a statement, the company says the sales reps were no longer employed and company policy prohibits the giving of cash or other items of value as inducements for writing prescriptions.

It was no tea party in Boston for the feds in a case against a former Warner-Chilcott executive. W. Carl Reichel was acquitted of charges that he paid kickbacks to doctors. Prosecutors charged that the former executive created a strategy of paying kickbacks to doctors in the form of sham speaking fees, money, and free meals in exchange for writing prescriptions of Warner-Chilcott drugs. US Attorney Carmen Ortiz said the charges against Mr. Reichel were warranted, and while cases against executives are difficult to prove, they’re necessary to deter improper conduct.

CMS sent out its annual declaration about Open Payments data. The payment and transfer of value data has been published, and is now publicly accessible. This year’s data represents nearly 12 million records covering $7.52 billion paid to physicians and teaching hospitals. As usual, research payments account for the largest share of the total amount.

This edition of the News in Review reminds us that the consequences of non-compliant behavior can be quite personal. When the big headlines tend to be about the multi-million and multi-billion dollar settlements paid to settle charges of fraud and non-compliance, convincing individuals that there is also a price to pay can be challenging. Citing cases like these in your training is one way to inform commercial staff and executives of those consequences.

While we don’t advocate turning compliance training into something akin to “Scared Straight,” sharing the full landscape of government enforcement actions is important. This is especially true following last year’s memo from Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates about the DOJ’s emphasis on holding individuals accountable in cases of corporate wrongdoing.

That’s it for this edition of the Compliance News in Review. Stay compliant!

News in Review, June 15, 2016

Federal investigators subpoena information related to charitable organizations from three companies, Congress proposes an amendment to the FDCA, the head of the FDA speaks on off-label information, and New Hampshire’s Attorney General targets the manufacturer of a popular painkiller.

The temperatures are rising well past 70 degrees Fahrenheit and that can only mean one thing…time to hit the beach! Pack up the station wagon, minivan, or whatever mode of transportation best accommodates your gear and head to the sand and surf for some fun and relief from the heat! Of course, the standard precautions and warnings are in order: use plenty of sunscreen; mind the flags regarding ocean conditions; and above all, be wary of teens resembling Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello bursting into fits of random dancing and singing (now there’s a dated reference for you). Of course, you’ll need plenty of reading material before you drift off into a coconut oil scented daydream. So after you finish the latest from Mary Higgins Clarke or that true crime tome, please enjoy the next best beach read…this edition of the Compliance New in Review.

The waves of compliance just got slightly chopping for a trio of drug manufacturers. Three companies, Gilead, Jazz and Biogen, received subpoenas from federal investigators for information related to their relationships with charitable organizations that help patients with medication costs. Charities receiving support from industry companies claim those companies have no say or influence on which patients they help or what drugs are covered. The government’s concern centers on whether the contributions are essentially illegal kickbacks.

Oh sunny day – a panel of the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee proposed an amendment to the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act that would allow companies more leeway in sharing truthful off-label information. The proposed amendment would limit the definition of intended use to the manufacturer’s “objective intent,” and allow for the dissemination of materials for scientific exchange, if the information in the materials is backed by scientific evidence. The panel expressed concern about the need for doctors to be kept abreast of the latest medical information, and frustration at the lack of movement by the FDA on guidance related to the dissemination of off-label information.

The head of the FDA also rode the off-label promotion wave when he spoke at the BIO International Convention. In his remarks, Robert Califf noted that supportable information worth sharing should be included on the product’s label, and he questioned why companies would not include useful information on the label or in the prescribing information. Califf also encouraged the industry to embrace social media, saying, “the best way to develop products in the future is likely going to involve a lot of people with diseases to have a handle on what their needs are, what their expectations are, and what their risk tolerance may be.”

As expected, Vermont was first in the water with a law requiring transparency of drug pricing. State officials will identify 15 drugs for which they want information about the reasons for price increases. The manufacturers of those drugs will have to submit information to justify the price increases.

New Hampshire Attorney General’s office has filed suit against Purdue over the company’s refusal to provide documents related to the marketing of OxyContin. The AG’s office claims the company is providing HCPs with misleading information regarding the product. The suit claims the company touts the drug lasts for 12 hours, and it also does not appropriately address end-of-dose failure. The AG also claims the company downplays the risks associated with addiction. Purdue says it is more than willing to cooperate with the investigation, provided the AG’s office does not share any documentation with private attorneys. The company believes a financial conflict of interest exists with the firm retained to assist in the investigation, and it should not be compelled to turn over information while a court case is pending.

A report from Reuters questions the independence of firms hired by companies under a CIA to serve as an Independent Review Organization (IRO). Unlike other agencies, the Department of Health and Human Services does not prohibit companies under a CIA from hiring an IRO with which they have an existing relationship. Critics claim those arrangements represent a conflict of interest. A representative of the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) said she has not witnessed any issues with these arrangements. Spokespersons for various industry companies said they disclose all their business relationships to the OIG in advance.

The seas have also been choppy for Salix Pharmaceuticals recently. The company agreed to pay $54 million to settle allegations it provided kickbacks to physicians for prescribing its products. According to the DOJ, the company admitted to paying doctors to be speakers for the company as an inducement for prescribing its products. The government claims the programs at which the doctors spoke were largely social in nature and provided little or no information related to a product. In addition to resolving the federal case, the settlement will resolve several related state fraud cases.

That’s all for this edition of the News in Review. Until next time, we wish you safe sailing and calm compliance waters!

Compliance News in Review, November 2, 2015

The first corporate criminal bribery settlement under the UK Bribery Act is announced, a Biomet rep files a retaliation suit under the False Claims Act, Novartis settles with the DOJ, Warner Chilcott pleads guilty in a kickback case, and Valeant legal concerns continue to grow.

Here a pumpkin, there a pumpkin, everywhere a pumpkin…or pumpkin spice to be more specific. Seems like there is pumpkin spice version everything these days. That may not be a bad thing though, since according to news reports, a shortage of canned pumpkin may lead to a shortage of pies. The horror! Just in case, better to stock up on those Pumpkin Spice Oreos and Pumpkin Spice Twinkies in the meantime. Happily, there is no shortage of “spicy” compliance stories here at the News in Review, so let’s get this edition cooking!

Something spicy and significant is brewing in Scotland, with regulators announcing the first corporate criminal bribery offence settlement under the Bribery Act. Brand-Rex, a mid-size Scottish cabling systems company, admitted it had failed to prevent an associated person from committing bribery, and agreed to pay £212,800 as confiscation for the benefit gained from the action. The company operated an incentive program for its distributors, and one of its independent distributors offered travel tickets received through the program to a purchasing decision-maker to influence a purchasing decision. Brand-Rex discovered the bribery through an internal audit, and self-disclosed its findings to the authorities. Since the company cooperated with the investigation, it avoided criminal prosecution.

A former Biomet sales representative claims he was not treated gingerly by the company. The rep filed the suit under the anti-retaliation provision of the New York False Claims Act, claiming retaliation by the company after he reported the kickback concerns. According to the rep, he was harassed for 13 months before eventually being fired.

Novartis has carved out a settlement in principle with the DOJ, in a whistleblower case involving the company’s relationship with specialty pharmacies. The agreement will include a settlement of $390 million, and CIA obligations.

Warner Chilcott has agreed to pay $125 million and will plead guilty to a felony charge of healthcare fraud. According to the government, the company paid kickbacks to physicians, manipulated insurance companies to pay for prescriptions, and made unsubstantiated claims about its drugs. The company’s former president was arrested for conspiring to pay kickbacks to physicians, and several physicians and district managers face charges in connection with the case.

The stroll through the pumpkin patch has not been pleasant for Valeant lately. The company was subpoenaed by two US Attorney’s offices to provide documents related to its pricing policies, and its patient assistance and financial support programs. Then Valeant was accused in a report by short-seller, Citron, of creating phantom sales through its relationships with specialty-pharmacies. Citron compared Valeant to Enron in the report. Valeant stock prices took a serious tumble following the report, and led to shareholders filing suit against the company. Lawyers for the shareholders are seeking class action status for the suit.

Orange you glad when friends come to bat for you? (See what we did there – pumpkins are orange, so we said, orange you glad…oh never mind.) A couple of industry groups have done just that for Pacira Pharmaceuticals in its suit against the FDA. PhRMA and a consortium of industry companies known as the Medical Information Working Group (MIWG) have filed Amicus briefs with the court in support of Pacira’s First Amendment case against the FDA. Pacira received a Warning Letter, which has since been de-published by the FDA, over truthful off-label promotion of one of its drugs. The company subsequently filed suit against the agency. The letter from the MIWG points out that promotional speech is protected speech under the First Amendment under the Sorrell v. IMS decision, and the off-label use of drugs is common and often the medical standard of care.

While the topics in this edition of the Compliance News in Review may be varied, they all highlight the need for companies to establish a strong ethical culture. As we saw in the story from Scotland, having procedures in place to identify misconduct is an important first step, but having the courage to bring the evidence of misconduct to authorities is critical as well. Creating an environment in which individuals can report suspect actions without fear of reprisal is paramount.

Have a great week everyone!

Compliance News in Review, March 24, 2015

Oregon considers the idea of requiring pharma companies to disclose pricing information, CMS offers Open Payments updates, Sandoz settles with the OIG over alleged pricing data misrepresentations, the DOJ beefs up its FCPA enforcement team, and Public Citizen petitions the FDA on the issue of companies distributing peer-reviewed articles.

It’s time to dance everyone! March Madness is here. And what a dance it has been so far. As per usual, a couple of Cinderella moments wreaked havoc on brackets far and wide. Now it is onto the Sweet 16. Is your team still in the mix? While there’s a momentary break in the action, let’s take a look at the stories that filled our dance card this past week. Time to tipoff this week’s Compliance News in Review.

Our first story takes us to the home of the Oregon Ducks. Perhaps taking a cue from its neighbor to the south, a bill has been introduced in the Oregon legislature to require pharmaceutical companies to disclose information related to drug pricing. California introduced similar legislation recently, and like the California proposal, Oregon’s proposal would apply to drugs with an annual wholesale acquisition cost of $10,000. Companies would be required to file an annual report with the State, detailing information such as the manufacturer’s costs related to R&D, and costs paid for distributing the drug. Representatives from industry groups, PhRMA and BIO, testified before a committee, saying that the proposed law would harm patients and industry companies.

The clock is running down for 2014 data submission to Open Payments. With that in mind, CMS recently held a Q&A session to deal with any burning questions from Applicable Manufacturers and GPOs. During the call, CMS suggested that companies that have United States spelled out in their files deleted their records, change to “U.S.” and resubmit. So far the work around has proved largely successful. The agency also noted that it can trace deleted manufacturer records and said in order for companies to avoid audit issues and possible penalties, companies should separate rejected records from accepted records.

Sandoz was called for a costly foul when the company agreed to settle with OIG for $12.6 million over allegations it misrepresented drug pricing data. According to the OIG, between 2010 and 2012, Sandoz misrepresented the Average Sales Price (ASP) to CMS. As part of the settlement, Sandoz had to certify that it has established a government pricing compliance program.

The DOJ is adding quite a few new players to its FCPA enforcement team. The agency has confirmed it is adding 30 new agents specifically to deal with FCPA violations. More hands on the DOJ deck raise the stakes for companies in their compliance efforts. Legal experts say companies need to take a look at their internal and external anticorruption programs, and conduct reviews of internal controls, risk assessment, and third-party due diligence.

The SEC plans on beefing up its FCPA enforcement schedule. At the Corporate Counsel Institute conference, the SEC’s enforcement director, Andrew Ceresney, said that the agency’s regulatory focus would be on internal controls, and more FCPA enforcement actions. He pointed out that the SEC has already brought more FCPA cases in the five months of the 2015 fiscal year, than it did in all of 2014.

Public Citizen is asking the FDA to withdraw a proposal that would allow pharmaceutical companies to distribute peer-reviewed articles containing data stating a drug is not as risky as indicated on the label. The group sent a letter to Health and Human Services, saying the proposal would allow drug companies to “sell more drugs by making them appear safer than the FDA judged them to be.” Public Citizen has obtained and published all the comments the FDA has received on the proposal. Most of them are in opposition to the idea.

That about wraps it up for this edition of the Compliance Week in Review. Here’s hoping your favorite college squad is still in the hunt for a Final Four – we’ll be here wondering what exactly happened to our Villanova Wildcats (there’s always next year…again).

Have a great week everyone!

Week in Review, May 13, 2014

CMS posts help for applicable manufacturers to prepare for Phase 2, Maine’s Pharmacy Board questions the validity of an Internet pharmacy, the OIG asks Boston Scientific about two of its products, and Brazil fines Eli Lilly for manufacturing violations.

We’re not sure how it happened, but somehow, nearly half the month of May has passed with us not realizing that this is Barbeque (or Barbecue if you prefer) Month. And if you thought (insert your favorite sports rivalry here) was a topic that could fire up a heated conversation, just mention proper barbecuing techniques. Pork versus beef, sauce versus no sauce (we won’t even open up the type of sauce can of worms), dry rub versus wet rub…it’s all a point of contention and fierce debate. So break out the brisket and make your plans to celebrate Barbecue/Barbeque Month while we fire up this week’s Compliance News in Review.

CMS is getting the coals all nice and hot for Phase 2 of the Open Payments data submission process. The agency announced that it will post a series of tutorials to help applicable manufacturers and GPOs prepare for Phase 2. The first of three tutorials is available now on the Open Payments website. CMS also announced that physicians and teaching hospitals will be able to register in CMS’ Enterprise Portal beginning June 1. Registration is not necessarily required for physicians or teaching hospitals, but it is needed if anyone from those institutions wants to see their Open Payments data.

The Maine Pharmacy Board is asking the Attorney General to apply some direct heat to an Internet pharmacy that has been advertising inexpensive drugs in the state. The president of Maine Pharmacy Association filed a complaint with the Board, saying the online drug seller wasn’t a licensed pharmacy. He says he ordered three medications from the company and all were made outside of Canada.

Is there a secret sauce for determining fair market value (FMV) rates in emerging markets? It certainly can get complicated in a constantly changing global economy. In an article for Policy and Medicine, Mario Prohasky, of Polaris, suggests companies should update their FMV rates when macroeconomic changes occur. For example, when an annual inflation rate exceeds 10% to 15%, or a local currency experiences a devaluation of 20% or more, a company should re-evaluate its FMV rates.

HHS is asking Boston Scientific to carve out a little information related to one of its products. In a regulatory filing, the company revealed that the OIG has asked for information regarding the 2008 launch of two of its defibrillators.

On the physician spend front, the total cost of payments to physicians and hospitals in Massachusetts dropped between 2011 and 2012. While recently released data shows a 12% drop in the total amount of payments, the number of payments actually increased. This can be credited to the change in the Massachusetts law that allows companies to provide modest meals. Spending on food (barbecue and otherwise) was up 65%.

Eli Lilly is disputing the ingredients it’s been accused of using at one of its manufacturing plants. The company was fined $450 million by a Brazilian court for allegedly exposing employees to hazardous materials at the plant. Lilly is appealing the decision, saying the chemicals to which the plaintiffs claim they were exposed were not used in manufacturing. Lilly also claims the court’s ruling is based on bad math and “inaccurate scientific claims.”

And with that, we bring this week’s feast of compliance news to a close. If you’re wondering if your compliance training curriculum offers the right list of ingredients, the PharmaCertify™ suite of eLearning modules and mobile apps offers comprehensive and up-to-date training on the regulations and policies your learners need to understand as they interact with healthcare professionals.

Have a great week everyone!

Week in Review, February 17, 2014

A look back at 2013 FCPA enforcement reveals trends for the future, Brazil enacts an anti-bribery law of its own, at least one attorney wonders if Sunshine will hamper qui tam cases, and the FDA wants medical device adverse event reports submitted electronically.

Well, it’s President’s Day – certainly, one of the more interesting American holidays in terms of its evolution. From what we’re told by the folks at the history channel, the holiday was originally created to celebrate George Washington’s birthday. The shift to “President’s Day” is somewhat convoluted but suffice to say, it was part of the Uniform Monday Holiday, which was passed in 1971 and was intended to create more three day weekends for the nation’s workers, while fighting employee absenteeism by ensuring that holidays fell on the same weekday. Whew! Now that we are all clear on that, let’s focus on something a lot easier to understand, the compliance news of the week, in the News in Review.

Speaking of history, we begin this week with a look back at the DOJ’s enforcement of the FCPA for clues to future trends. Not surprisingly, the scope of FCPA enforcement widened in 2013, and the average cost of resolving increased to $80 million last year. New industries felt the brunt of the Act, with apparel manufacturer, Ralph Lauren, and ATM manufacturer, Diebold, entering into settlements with the government to settle charges. The agencies also expanded their investigatory search beyond written documents to business communication in general, with one representative of a mining company being charged with witness tampering based on a secretly recorded conversation.

A new bribery law  had its inauguration at the end of January. Brazil’s Clean Companies Act went into effect on January 29th. The law allows for the prosecution of  acts of bribery committed by Brazilian companies or foreign companies with a registered affiliate in Brazil. Unlike the FCPA and UK Bribery Act, the Clean Companies Act only carries civil penalties.

Holiday or not, Teva may not be a celebratory mood. The company announced it was under investigation by the government for the marketing practices related to two of its drugs. The government requested documents dating back to 2006 as it conducts the investigation.

From the land adjacent to the “land of Lincoln” comes an announcement of a program designed to educate medical students about the inner workings of the pharmaceutical industry. Eli Lilly is rolling out a four week rotational program where students will experience the various aspects of the drug development process and how physicians contribute to that process. The program will be conducted at Tulane University’s School of Medicine.

On the legal front, during a National Disclosure Summit, a qui tam attorney said Sunshine data could hamper qui tam cases more than it could help. The attorney said relators will have a harder time getting past the False Claims Act “public disclosure bar,” which requires relators to file their claims before information is in the public domain. On the other hand, the Sunshine data will add instant credibility to  a whistleblower’s claims, according to the same attorney. The data can also support an “inference of off-label marketing.”

The FDA announced that beginning in August of 2015, adverse event reports related to medical devices will need to be submitted electronically. The move, which is part of an initiative to improve operations, is expected to save the FDA $1.9 million each year. Companies will save too, but only after an estimated $38 – $42 million dollar investment to upgrade their own systems and procedures.

And so ends this week’s News in Review. With the end of another February in site, now is the time to launch updated product promotion training for 2014. The customizable PharmaCertify™ eLearning module, Good Promotional Practices offers the training your field staff needs on critical topics like gifts, meals and entertainment; advisory boards; and speaker programs.

Have a great week everyone!