Pfizer Subpoenaed in DOJ Investigation of Drugmaker Charity Connections

  • Feds ask for documents on patient co-pay assistance charities
  • Numerous drug companies have been subpoenaed in widening probe

Pfizer Inc. said that it received two subpoenas from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Massachusetts related to charities that help Medicare patients afford co-payments for drugs, the latest company to disclose involvement in the probe.

The New York-based drugmaker said in a securities filing Thursday that it received subpoenas on December 2015 and on July 2016 requesting documents related to the Patient Access Network Foundation and other organizations that provide financial assistance to Medicare patients. Pfizer donated more than $10 million to the PAN Foundation in 2016, according to a report on its website dated December 19, 2016, including for funds related to kidney cancer and a hormone disorder known as acromegaly.

“Pfizer is among a number of companies that have received subpoenas regarding this matter,” spokeswoman Neha Wadhwa said in an e-mail.

Margaret Figley, a spokeswoman for the PAN Foundation, said in an e-mail that the group fully cooperates with government requests for information.

A long list of drugmakers have now received subpoenas about their relationships with patient assistance charities, some related to how they help people in the Medicare drug program for the elderly afford the co-payments for drugs.

Drug Price Foil

As drug prices have surged, pharmaceutical companies’ large contributions to charities have given them a public-relations foil against backlash and helped keep patients from seeking lower-priced medicines. The seven biggest co-pay charities, which cover scores of diseases, reported combined contributions of $1.1 billion in 2014 -- more than double their 2010 figures.

Last year, Gilead Sciences Inc., Biogen Inc. and Jazz Pharmaceuticals Plc said they had received subpoenas for documents related to the nonprofits. Gilead and Jazz said their subpoenas came from the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts. The filings didn’t disclose names of specific charities.

Earlier this month, Celgene Corp. said it had received a second subpoena in November from federal prosecutors related to its patient assistance programs, following an earlier subpoena in December 2015. Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. also disclosed this month that it received a subpoena in January.

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