Maryland joins in $625 million settlement with company over adulterated cancer drugs

The pharmaceutical wholesale firm AmerisourceBergen Corp. has agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by Maryland and several other states and the federal government that alleged the company fraudulently marketed adulterated drugs to vulnerable cancer patients.

Maryland’s Medicaid program will recoup $1.8 million from the Valley Forge, Pa.-based Fortune 500 firm, the office Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh announced Friday.

The company will pay $625 million in total to federal and state health care programs to resolve a series of whistleblower lawsuits

The Maryland attorney general’s office also reported that a company subsidiary, AmerisourceBergen Specialty Group, pleaded guilty to illegally distributing misbranded drugs and will pay $260 million in criminal fines and forfeitures.

The case stems from an investigation of a specialty group pharmacy in Alabama called Medical Initiatives Inc., which investigators said pooled vials of certain chemotherapy-related drugs to create pre-filled syringes for use on patients. The lawsuits alleged the company was not legitimate and repackaged and marketed drugs without federal approval and did not ensure a sterile environment.

The lawsuit said there was bacterial and other contamination in the drugs, which included Aloxi, Anzemet, Kytril, Neupogen, Procrit and the generic version of Kytril. The lawsuit said because the company failed to show the drugs were safe, thousands of claims submitted to Medicaid and other government health programs were fraudulent.

The settlement also resolves allegations that the company double-billed the health programs for the syringes and gave kickbacks to doctors who agreed to purchase them, the attorney general’s office said.

The company did not respond to request for comment.

AmerisourceBergen also has been named as a defendant in a lawsuit brought by Baltimore against multiple opioid manufacturers and distributors over the marketing of addictive pain pills linked to an epidemic of fatal overdoses. The city specifically alleged distributors failed to properly report suspicious pill orders as required under federal and Maryland law.

meredith.cohn@baltsun.com

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