Followers of this False Claims Act whistleblower blog are familiar with what we have announced about our long piece of Qui Tam litigation with the world's largest biotech company. From 2009 through 2011, we fought them in the trenches, on the seas, and in the skies to expose their all-too-clever kickback scheme of marketing the "overfill" from vials of their drug Aranesp to induce doctors to use this drug rather than Johnson & Johnson's competing drug Procrit. A most clever kickback scheme funded by the taxpayers, as Amgen encouraged doctors to bill Medicare and Medicaid for the large amounts of extra product it intentionally put in vials to distinguish Aranesp from Procrit. Two weeks before trial in September 2011, Amgen blinked, reaching preliminary agreement to what would later become a global criminal and civil resolution of our case (and several others under seal but not awaiting trial) that involved a $760 million settlement, see DOJ Press Release (12-19-12).pdf, with the feds and the states.
Showing little remorse or respect for the taxpayers it had just been caught ripping off, Amgen took advantage of the confusion and distraction of Congress' endless machinations over the recent "fiscal cliff" negotiations to sneak into the legislation a particularly favorable Medicare price protection for one of its drugs, Sensipar, resulting in some $500 million in "savings" to Amgen but expense to the taxpayers, according to an in-depth New York Times article, see NYT article.pdf. (Sensipar was one of the Amgen drugs included in the global $760 million settlement.) Exposing Amgen's mighty lobbying apparatus and its grip on certain key politicians, the Sensipar deal shocked and appalled most readers, describing it as the worst form of business as usual in Washington, see Pharmalot.pdf. Before the public outcry, Amgen executives were quick to crow to investors and analysts about this windfall at the taxpayers' expense.
Thankfully, the reaction to the Times expose was not limited to liberal bloggers, see truth out blog.pdf, or qui tam lawyers stunned to see how a company could so quickly steal back from the taxpayers what three years of litigation had painstakingly recovered. No, it seems even Congress was embarrassed to see what it had passed in the fineprint of legislation. Democratic Congressman Peter Welch of Vermont has introduced a bill that would unwind the giveaway. See Welch bill.pdf. In a statement that really can't be improved upon, Welch stated:
"This eleventh-hour, backroom deal confirms the American public's worst suspicions of how Congress operates. As the nation's economy teetered on the edge of a Congressional-created fiscal cliff, lobbyists for a private, for-profit company seized an opportunity to feed at the public trough. Without scrutiny or debate, the American taxpayer was stuck with the $500 million tab. This special interest provision should have stood on its own merits with an up or down vote. It's no wonder cockroaches and root canals are more popular than Congress."
Stay tuned to see if the outrage lasts long enough to see the repeal legislation pass.