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Sanofi to Pay $95.5 Million, Settle False-Claims Case
 
 
  By Cary O'Reilly
 
May 28 (Bloomberg) -- Sanofi-Aventis SA, France's biggest drugmaker, agreed to pay $95.5 million to settle the U.S. government's claim that a predecessor company misreported prices for medicine.
 
The settlement resolves lawsuit allegations that Aventis Pharmaceutical Inc. from 1995 to 2000 misreported so-called best prices for steroid-based anti-inflammatory nasal sprays Azmacort, Nasacort and Nasacort AQ, the Justice Department said today in a statement.
 
"This agreement reflects our commitment to ensuring that Aventis and other drug companies fulfill their obligations under the Drug Rebate Statute to accurately report pricing information and pass the savings along to the Medicaid program," Assistant Attorney General Tony West said in the statement.
 
Aventis was required by law to report the lowest or "best" price charged commercial customers and pay quarterly rebates to states based on those prices.
 
Instead, the company made private agreements with Kaiser Permanente, a health maintenance organization, that repackaged its drugs under a new label, the government said in a suit under the federal False Claims Act.
 
As a result, Aventis underpaid rebates and overcharged public health services for the products, the government said.
 
The company believes it "acted in accordance with the law at the time," Lisa Buffington, a U.S. spokeswoman for Sanofi- Aventis, said in a statement.
 
Company Statement
 
"The company elected to resolve this legacy matter through this settlement, without admitting any wrongdoing," she said.
 
Of the settlement amount, the federal recovery is about $49 million. Aventis also agreed to pay more than $40 million to states participating in the Medicaid health program for the poor, and $6 million to public health services who paid inflated prices for the medicines, the Justice Department said.
 
As part of today's settlement, Paris-based Sanofi-Aventis and the U.S. Health and Human Services Department amended a company corporate-integrity agreement that requires it to report certain best-price information for drugs covered by Medicaid and other health-care programs.
 
The agreement already requires the company to report other pricing information to the government as a result of a prior drug pricing settlement concerning its drug Anzemet, a nausea treatment used in cancer therapies.
 
Sanofi-Aventis, created when Sanofi-Synthelabo acquired larger rival Aventis SA in 2004, rose 33 cents to 44.72 euros in Paris, valuing the company at 58.86 billion euros ($82 billion).
 
To contact the reporter on this story: Cary O'Reilly in Washington at caryoreilly@bloomberg.net.
Last Updated: May 28, 2009 11:56 EDT
 
 
 
 
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