As reported by USA Today, there is a growing concern across the U.S. over the apparent surge in dangerous and highly expensive medications being pushed on the public by drug manufactures whose main concern is not turning a new corner in patient health but rather turning over millions in profits.
A lawsuit filed last year by Lieff Cabraser and the California Department of Insurance claiming over $1.2 billion in insurance fraud alleges that in 2012 the pharmaceutical company AbbVie began improperly incentivizing doctors and medical centers to prescribe its dangerous drug Humira to patients. AbbVie created a “Nurse Ambassador” program that paid nurses around the country to make extra home visits to patients who had been prescribed Humira, its rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis drug. Notably, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had promulgated stringent safety warnings concerning the use of drugs like Humira for the treatment of such conditions.
According to USA Today, AbbVie paid kickbacks to doctors to prescribe the drug and sent nurses into homes in order “to keep patients on a dangerous drug at any cost.” The lawsuit claims that the creation of the “Nurse Ambassador” program was an attempt by the pharmaceutical giant to engage in a far-reaching scheme to maximize profits and the number of prescriptions of Humira via “classic” kickbacks—including cash, meals, drinks, gifts, trips, and patient referrals—as well as more sophisticated kickbacks, including professional services to physicians to induce and reward Humira prescriptions.
“Kickbacks and more sophisticated schemes, like those alleged in the AbbVie case, are significant drivers in the out-of-control cost of prescription drugs that harm consumers,” noted California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara in a statement to USA Today.