Abiomed, Inc. has agreed to pay $3.1 million to resolve allegations that the company treated physicians to lavish meals at some of the country’s most expensive restaurants in order to induce the physicians to use the company’s line of heart pumps. The settlement stems from a complaint filed by a former Abiomed employee under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act.The federal government alleged that Abiomed paid for meals where alcohol was ordered in amounts inconsistent with legitimate scientific discussion and invited physicians’ spouses to attend meals that they had no legitimate business purpose for attending. The government also contended that Abiomed not only paid for meals where the cost per attendee exceeded Abiomed’s guidelines but also misrepresented the number of attendees at meals, by listing fictitious names, in order to make the true per-attendee cost appear lower.
In a press release announcing the settlement, representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services made statements affirming that their respective offices will continue to investigate sales practices that focus on entertainment rather than education and science.
In addition to the federal anti-kickback statute, many states’ laws also restrict marketing to physicians. As discussed here, the State of New Jersey recently passed a law capping the amount pharmaceutical companies are permitted to spend on entertainment and meals for physicians.