Lieff Cabraser Civil Justice Blog
AbbVie Medical Fraud Lawsuit Highlights Growing Nationwide Concern With Big Pharma Paying Doctors to Get New Customers

AbbVie Agrees to $24 Million Settlement with California Department of Insurance and Whistleblower Over Humira Marketing Fraud

Lawsuit alleged AbbVie pharmaceutical company committed fraud in promotion of blockbuster prescription drug Humira

The California Department of Insurance has announced a settlement agreement with AbbVie Inc. to resolve a lawsuit alleging the pharmaceutical giant violated the California Insurance Frauds Prevention Act (Act) by providing kickbacks to healthcare providers throughout California relating to the sale of its blockbuster immunosuppressive drug Humira.

The lawsuit accused AbbVie of improperly incentivizing doctors and medical centers to prescribe Humira to patients while at the same creating a “Nurse Ambassador” program that paid nurses around the state to make extra home visits to patients who had been prescribed the drug to ensure they continued taking it at any cost. The lawsuit claimed that the creation of the “Nurse Ambassador” program was an attempt by AbbVie to engage in a far-reaching scheme to maximize profits and the number of prescriptions of Humira.

As part of the settlement, AbbVie has agreed to make changes to its Humira marketing practices in California, including disclosing that nurses employed as “Ambassadors” to interact with patients about Humira are actually paid by AbbVie itself, and not a medical provider. In addition, as provided for in the Act, AbbVie has also paid a combined $24 million to the State of California and the whistleblower — a registered nurse who was employed as an AbbVie Ambassador, and who brought the case to the Department’s attention in October 2016.

“AbbVie’s prior practices in marketing Humira egregiously put profits ahead of transparency in patient care and violated California law,” said California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara. “This settlement delivers important reforms to AbbVie’s business practices and a substantial monetary recovery that will be used to continue to combat insurance fraud.”

A complete list of AbbVie’s business practice reforms can be found on the California Department of Insurance website.