Sanofi to Pay $109 Million to Settle False Claims Case

Sanofi, France’s biggest drugmaker, reached a settlement to pay $109 million over allegations that its U.S. units gave doctors free doses of a medicine to win their business and subvert Medicare’s drug reimbursement system.

Sanofi sales representatives entered into “illegal sampling arrangements” with physicians, giving them the arthritis drug Hyalgan as kickbacks and “promising to provide negotiated” amounts of the medication to lower its effective price in violation of the False Claims Act, the U.S. Justice Department said yesterday in a statement.

“Kickback schemes subvert the health-care marketplace and undermine the integrity of public health-care programs,” Stuart Delery, who heads the department’s civil division, said in the statement. “We will continue to hold accountable those who we allege are providing illegal incentives to influence the decision-making of health-care providers in federal health-care programs.”

The settlement resolves a 2010 whistle-blower lawsuit filed in federal court in Boston by Mark Giddarie, a former Sanofi sales representative. He’ll receive $18.5 million of the government’s recovery, according to the department.

Sanofi, in an e-mailed statement, said it cooperated in the government’s probe and expects to enter into a corporate integrity agreement with the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services. The company said it voluntarily stopped giving samples of the drug in 2009.

“Before the government initiated the investigation that led to this settlement, Sanofi identified concerns with Hyalgan sampling through the operation of its compliance program and immediately took strong, practice and effective steps to address these issues,” according to the statement.

The case is U.S. ex rel. Giddarie v. Sanofi-Aventis U.S. Inc., 10-cv-10070, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).