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Amgen Suit by Alleged Professional Whistle-Blower Tossed

Amgen Inc., the world’s largest biotechnology company, won’t have to face a drug-marketing lawsuit brought by a New Jersey doctor whom the U.S. describes as a professional whistle-blower.

U.S. District Judge Sterling Johnson in Brooklyn, New York, who oversaw Amgen’s $780 million drug misbranding settlement with the U.S. in December, issued an order yesterday throwing out the lawsuit by physician Joseph Piacentile.

Piacentile, who was previously convicted of conspiracy to make false statements in Medicare claims and tax evasion, operates the website and has filed at least 14 whistle-blower suits, the government said.

He and another plaintiff, former Amgen sales representative Kevin Kilcoyne, rejected a $1.8 million offer to settle their case as part of the government’s agreement with the company, according to Johnson’s order.

“When relators rejected that sum, the government was within its right to determine that further litigation was unlikely to lead to fraud prevention or additional recovery,” Johnson wrote.

Amgen, based in Thousand Oaks, California, pleaded guilty in December to a misdemeanor charge of misbranding its anemia drug Aranesp and agreed to settle whistle-blower suits alleging the company engaged in illegal sales practices regarding other drugs. The company agreed to pay $150 million in criminal penalties and $612 million in civil settlements.

Piacentile said that he declined to settle his case because the government refused to provide specific information about his share of the accord. Although he didn’t work at Amgen, Piacentile claimed he conducted an undercover investigation of the company and collected evidence from top marketing executives.

Eric Cramer, a lawyer for Piacentile, didn’t immediately return a call for comment on the lawsuit’s dismissal.

The case is U.S. ex rel. Piacentile v. Amgen Inc., 2:04-cv-03983, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).

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