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In another setback for the pharmaceutical industry, a federal appeals court panel upheld a ruling which found that copay assistance programs Pfizer wanted to launch for Medicare patients would violate kickback laws, a controversial issue that has caused numerous drugmakers to pay large fines.

The decision came in a closely-watched case that began two years ago, when Pfizer argued federal rules prohibiting companies from funding programs — either directly or indirectly — were unconstitutional. In one, Pfizer sought to provide direct financial assistance to Medicare beneficiaries using a heart failure drug. The other program would have used a charity to run a program to cover patient copays.

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