Bristol-Myers Reviewing Its Marketing Practices

From Reuters

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., whose billing methods are being probed by U.S. government authorities, said Tuesday that it was investigating its marketing practices to determine whether it violated anti-kickback laws and cheated state-run Medicaid programs.

New York-based Bristol-Myers said its investigation was purely an in-house matter, but cautioned that its sales and marketing practices could lead to civil or criminal fines.

The world's eighth-biggest drug maker declined to say what specifically prompted its internal review or whether authorities have begun new investigations of the company.

It was not clear whether the internal review has any connection with another company-sponsored internal review of its sales practices begun last year.

Bristol-Myers is confronting allegations that it cheated Medicare and Medicaid, artificially propped up earnings and unfairly blocked cheaper generic versions of its drugs.

Other drug makers have paid fines in recent years after government probes of kickbacks and overcharges to the federal Medicare and Medicaid insurance programs for the elderly, poor and disabled.

Fines have included $875 million paid in 2001 by TAP Pharmaceuticals, a joint venture between Abbott Laboratories Inc. and Takeda Chemical Industries Ltd., and $355 million last month against AstraZeneca.

The U.S. attorney's office in Massachusetts is investigating whether Bristol-Myers and other drug makers used overly aggressive marketing strategies, including violating federal law that requires them to give Medicare and Medicaid the best possible price for their medicines.

Shares of Bristol-Myers rose 26 cents to $26.26 on Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange.

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