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In the latest imbroglio involving drug makers and kickbacks, Pacira Biosciences (PCRX) has agreed to pay $3.5 million to resolve allegations of paying doctors bogus research grants to persuade them to prescribe its only medicine, the Exparel painkiller, which is used during various surgical procedures.

From late 2012 through early 2015, Pacira approved and funded the grants despite receiving little or no documented description of any proposed research and then conducted little to no follow up to ensure the work was being done, according to court documents filed by the Department of Justice. In some cases, grant recipients did not conduct any research, at all.


The company targeted doctors and their respective hospitals with grants, but in exchange, required that Exparel be placed on a hospital formulary before awarding a grant. As part of the scheme, Pacira executives coached grant recipients and hospital employees on how to avoid “internal scrutiny” of grant payments. In general, authorities alleged Pacira expressed little interest in any research.

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