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For the past decade, Eli Lilly (LLY) allegedly relied on a scheme in which nurses were used to illegally promote its diabetes medicines to physicians. A recently unsealed lawsuit describes how the company hired nurses to talk up its treatments to doctors and their patients, an arrangement that purportedly violated federal kickback laws.

By doing so, Lilly avoided concerns that sales reps might get little to no face time with doctors and simultaneously helped save physicians from the expense of providing followup care, according to the lawsuit. The approach is sometimes known as “white coat marketing,” which the lawsuit noted is considered problematic by authorities because it may blur trust between doctors and patients.

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  • from my reading about these lawsuits, including scanning the actual legal documents, the issue as I see it isn’t about proving the nurse educators have been working as de-facto sales reps. These complaints are making the point that any services involving nurse educators — or even insurance coverage investigation by a 3rd party funded by pharma — is a free service that saves the MD office time (and so money). Where this inevitably leads is to a conclusion that any service, all the way down to patient education brochures, is potentially going to be viewed as a kickback if they are provided to Medicare or Medicaid patients without the MD practice paying for it.
    I’m not at all sure this is going to benefit anyone, especially patients.

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