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A federal watchdog agency has issued an unusual warning to the pharmaceutical industry to avoid using kickbacks — specifically, under the guise of so-called speaker programs — to entice doctors to write more prescriptions.

In a special fraud alert, the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services strongly advised drug makers to think twice before rewarding high-prescribing physicians with speaking deals, conditioning speaking payments based on prescribing targets, or holding programs at venues — such as high-priced restaurants, wineries, or golf clubs — that are not conducive to education.


“Based on our investigations and enforcement actions, this remuneration is often offered or paid to induce — or solicited or received in return for — ordering or prescribing items paid for by federal health care programs,” the alert states. “If the requisite intent is present, both the company and the health care providers may be subject to criminal, civil, and administrative enforcement actions.”

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