Bayer to pay $40m for whistleblower bribe claims

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Bayer AG has agreed to pay $40 million to resolve US lawsuits related to allegations that company officials bribed hospitals and doctors to use its drugs.

The settlement stems from two “whistleblower” lawsuits filed by ex-marketing employee Laurie Simpson nearly two decades ago and subsequent litigation by the U.S. government, the U.S. Department of Health said Friday. Justice in a press release. Simpson will receive approximately $11 million from the settlement, the department said.

Bayer has not admitted wrongdoing under the settlement with federal prosecutors, certain state attorneys general and Simpson. The agreement “reflects a business decision by the company that resolution was preferable to pursuing an already protracted litigation,” Chris Loder, a Bayer spokesman, said in an email.

The Germany-based company has been accused of violating US misrepresentation law in connection with the drugs Trasylol, Avelox and Baycol, the department said. The lawsuits alleged unlawful actions, including paying bribes, marketing off-label drugs, and downplaying their safety risks.

Bayer pulled Trasylol, a drug used in heart surgeries, from the market in 2007 after a Canadian study suggested it increased death rates. The drugmaker is also accused of wrongfully downplaying the drug’s health risks. The company

In 2008, Bayer sent out warning letters to doctors in Europe about incidents of serious liver and skin side effects in patients taking its antibiotic Avelox. Simpson alleged that Bayer was marketing Avelox for “off-label uses that were not reasonable and necessary,” according to the DOJ.

Three years later, Bayer pulled its top-selling cholesterol-lowering drug Baycol over concerns about muscle weakness in some users and 31 deaths, according to the federal whistleblower lawsuit filed in Minnesota. She sued Bayer for Trasylol and Avelox in New Jersey.

Simpson also alleged that Bayer and certain U.S. units caused false claims to be submitted to Medicare and Medicaid programs and violated laws in 20 states and Washington, DC. payment of bribes” to strengthen its market share.

Although individual doctors can prescribe an approved drug for any reason, companies can only market them in the United States for purposes authorized by the Food and Drug Administration. Trying to get doctors to sell drugs for unapproved uses is tantamount to off-label abuse.

In title filings, Bayer officials admitted paying more than $1.1 billion to settle with more than 3,000 former Baycol users who sued for injuries they blamed on drugs .

The case is Simpson v. Bayer, 05-cv-3895, US District Court, District of New Jersey (Newark).

Photo: The Bayer AG logo is seen on banners outside the Bayer CropScience AG research and development center in Frankfurt, Germany. Photographer: Alex Kraus/Bloomberg


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