PharMerica, Kindred settle kickback suit

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Federal regulators were combing through out-of-court agreements at press time to discern whether settlement terms reached by PharMerica Corp. and Kindred Healthcare would pass regulatory muster.

The long-term care giants had agreed in principle to out-of-court settlements in a whistleblower suit that implicated them in alleged kickback schemes involving a popular anemia medicine.

Judge Joseph Anderson Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina was confident enough in preliminary terms to dismiss the lawsuit without prejudice in mid-August, after the sides had reported a settlement.

Kindred representatives had not responded to a request for comment as of press time. A PharMerica attorney told
McKnight's that the company was unable to comment until the settlement was finalized and fully approved by authorities. 

Plaintiff Frank Kurnik, a former director of long-term care and home healthcare divisions at Amgen, filed the original False Claim Act allegations. He maintained that Amgen paid kickbacks to PharMerica, the second-largest pharmacy services company in long-term care, and Kindred Healthcare Inc. to induce providers and pharmacists to switch patients from the drug Procrit to Amgen's drug Aranesp.

Omnicare, the nation's biggest LTC pharmacy provider and an earlier co-defendant in the case, settled with the government in February 2014 for $4.2 million. The government declined to intervene in the allegations against PharMerica and Kindred, however. Amgen settled with the government in April 2013 for $24.9 million.

PharMerica and Kindred failed in trying to convince the court to dismiss the case under the False Claims Act's “first to file” provision, which attempts to dissuade “copycat” whistleblower suits involving the same defendants under similar circumstances.