Benicar Drug-Maker Pays $39 Million Kickback SettlementJanuary 12, 2015 — The Wall Street Journal reports that Daiichi Sankyo has agreed to pay $39 million to resolve allegations of paying kickbacks to doctors who prescribed certain medications, including the blood pressure drug Benicar.

The settlement resolves a whistleblower lawsuit that was filed under the False Claims Act by a former sales representative for Daiichi Sankyo. The whistleblower, Kathy Fragoules, will receive $6.1 million of the federal recovery before legal fees are subtracted.

The U.S. Department of Justice accused Daiichi Sankyo of paying kickbacks in the form of speaking fees between January 2004 and February 2011.

In some cases, doctors took turns speaking on duplicative topics, or they gave speeches to their own staff or spouses. The “lavish” dinners were paid by the drug-maker and sometimes exceeded the company’s own limitations of $140 per person.

Federal law prohibits paying kickbacks to doctors because it compromises their medical judgment. In recent years, the government has been cracking down on pharmaceutical companies who use illegal tactics to market their medications.

As part of the settlement, Daiichi Sankyo must also implement a corporate integrity program to prevent similar illegal marketing practices from occurring in the future.

The drugs included Welchol, a cholesterol-lowering medication, and the olmesartan-containing blood pressure drugs Benicar, Azor, and Tribenzor.

Olmesartan has been linked to a severe gastrointestinal syndrome known as sprue-like enteropathy. The FDA issued a Safety Communication for Benicar, Tribenzor, and Azor in July 2013. People who develop sprue-like enteropathy suffer from chronic, watery diarrhea that can cause life-threatening weight-loss, malnutrition, dehydration, and permenant intestinal damage.

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