Bristol-Myers to pay $515m fine

US drugmaker Bristol-Myers Squibb and a subsidiary have agreed to pay more than $515m (£251.7m) to settle allegations of marketing certain drugs illegally.

The fines issued by the US Department of Justice mark the end of a probe into the firm’s drug pricing practices that began a number of years ago.

The fine had already been provisionally agreed last December and the firm said it had reserved the money.

Bristol-Myers said there were no criminal charges against the company.

New York-based Bristol-Myers has endured a turbulent five-year period, including an accounting scandal and a lengthy investigation into allegedly dubious business practices.

The US DoJ concluded on Friday that the company and a wholly-owned subsidiary called Apothecon had used incentive schemes to encourage doctors and wholesalers to stockpile their drugs and so help Bristol-Myers achieve its sales targets.

This included maintaining “fraudulent and inflated” prices for a wide range of cancer and generic drugs knowing that federal health care programmes established reimbursement rates based on those prices.

Bristol-Myers was also accused of knowingly misreporting its best price for the anti-depression drug Serzone to Medicaid, the government-backed health insurance scheme.

In addition, the DoJ claimed that the company had promoted the use of the treatment-specific anti-psychotic drug Abilify to a wider client base than recommended by the Food and Drug Administration.

“Patients are entitled to unbiased decision-making from their physicians and should not have to worry that financial inducements or lavish entertainment have influenced their physicians’ prescribing choices,” said Michael Sullivan, the US attorney in Boston.

As part of the settlement, Bristol-Myers said it had entered into a five-year “corporate integrity agreement” with the government healthcare regulator, the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services.

The agreement is designed to ensure the company adheres to its compliance programs relating to its US pharmaceuticals business.

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