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Amid a growing number of probes into drug makers and patient charities, Pfizer (PFE) has agreed to pay nearly $23.8 million to resolve charges of illegally using a supposedly independent charity to pay kickbacks to Medicare patients as a way to cover their out-of-pocket costs.

Specifically, the Department of Justice alleged that Pfizer used the Patient Access Network Foundation as a conduit to cover co-pay costs for Medicare patients taking three of its drugs, according to the settlement agreement. These drugs were Sutent and Inlyta, which both treat renal cell carcinoma, and Tikosyn, which treats arrhythmia in patients with atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter.


The feds contended that, from 2012 through 2016, Pfizer used a specialty pharmacy called Advanced Care Scripts to shift some patients to the charity, which then covered co-pay costs, rather than giving Sutent and Inlyta directly to Medicare patients who met financial qualifications for its existing free drug program. And Pfizer allegedly made donations to PAN so co-pay costs would be covered.

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