Grassley Questions Amgen's Doctor Discounts

April 10, 2008
Angie Drakulich

Angie Drakulich was editorial director of Pharmaceutical Technology.

ePT--the Electronic Newsletter of Pharmaceutical Technology

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) sent a letter to Amgen (Thousand Oaks, CA) last week asking the company to account for the high rebates it has given to certain physician groups who bought Aranesp.

Washington, DC (Apr. 10)-Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) sent a letter to Amgen (Thousand Oaks, CA) last week asking the company to account for the high rebates it has given to certain physician groups who bought its "Aranesp" medicine. This particular anti-anemia drug treats kidney and cancer patients.

“Some oncology practices in some states are receiving unusually high rebates for purchasing Aranesp,” wrote Grassley. “These trends underscore the need for greater transparency in the financial relationships between drug makers and doctors. Patients deserve to know what’s going on as they make decisions about their health and safety based on the advice of their doctors.”

According to Grassley’s letter, Amgen paid nearly $800 million in rebates to more than 6000 facilities in 2006, including to group practices, hospital inpatient and outpatient departments, home health agencies, and skilled nursing facilities.

Grassley obtained the information about Amgen’s discounts from an earlier inquiry. He has been

seeking

greater access by the US Food and Drug Administration to study results for anti-anemia drugs. An FDA advisory committee, in fact, recommended limiting the use of these drugs among cancer patients in March because of safety concerns. Specifically, the panel recommended that anti-anemia drugs no longer be taken by patients with breast cancer or head and neck cancer until more information about the drugs’ effect is known. In some cases, the drugs may make patients’ situations worse, it has been reported. This recommendation also affects Johnson & Johnson’s anti-anemia drug, "Procrit."

Amgen has not yet commented on Grassley’s letter. The Senator has actively followed the pharmaceutical industry and its regulation during the past year, specifically regarding imported products. See related articles below:

"China, Here We Come," Says FDA, Mar. 20 ePT

We Need More Overseas Inspections

, October 2007

Pharmaceutical Technology

editorial

Senator Questions FDA's Foreign Inspections, Aug. 16 ePT