United Therapeutics (UTHR) agreed to pay $210 million to resolve charges of paying kickbacks to Medicare patients through an ostensibly independent charity, one of the first settlements to emerge from an investigation into drug makers that deal with charities to provide financial assistance to patients.

Drug makers are prohibited from subsidizing co-pays for Medicare patients, since this would be considered a kickback, but a company may make donations to charities that provide patients with co-pay assistance. Consequently, more drug makers are making donations, but critics say the effort is a thinly veiled public relations campaign to attract patients to expensive medicines.

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