Two years after paying $24 million to settle claims that it allegedly committed insurance fraud by giving kickbacks while promoting its arthritis drug, Humira, AbbVie is now facing similar claims in another state.
On May 20, an AbbVie investor filed a lawsuit in Delaware claiming that the pharmaceutical company’s senior executives exposed it to potential liability through a “white coat” kickback scheme that illegally promoted Humira.
The lawsuit names 12 current and former board members or management executives of AbbVie as defendants. These defendants are accused of violating the federal Anti-Kickback Statute by providing free so-called “nurse ambassadors” to physicians who wrote prescriptions for Humira, Bloomberg Law reported. AbbVie allegedly sent nurse ambassadors to patients’ homes, claiming to be working for doctors when in fact they were serving the interests of the pharmaceutical company.
The Delaware lawsuit was filed after news of AbbVie’s alleged kickback scheme became public and caused the company’s stock price to drop. It was this illegal marketing scheme that deceived investors and, in part, led to Humira’s success, the Delaware lawsuit claims.
Humira has been the world’s top-selling drug since 2012, generating $20 billion in revenue in 2020.
In a 2020 California lawsuit, a nurse whistleblower filed the complaint, which alleged that the nurse ambassadors failed to report side effect complaints about Humira to physicians.
Under the terms reached with California’s Insurance Commissioner, AbbVie agreed to disclose that the registered nurses who interacted with patients about Humira were paid by the company and not a medical provider, Reuters reported at the time.
The Insurance Commissioner of California also accused AbbVie of providing physicians with food, alcoholic beverages, cash bonuses, vacations, and other inducements for prescribing Humira.