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Illegal Kickback or Helping Patients?

French drugmaker Sanofi will pay $11.85 million to settle allegations that it used a charity to help cover patients' costs for a high-priced multiple sclerosis drug as part of a kickback scheme, Reuters reported on Friday.

The deal with the US Department of Justice was announced Friday. According to Reuters, Sanofi provided payments to a charity called The Assistance Fund, which used the money to cover the co-pay obligations of Medicare patients who were taking the drug alemtuzumab (Lemtrada), which is sold in the US by Sanofi Genzyme, a specialty biopharma business unit of Sanofi. The drug costs patients roughly $100,000 per year, and according to the USDOJ, Sanofi made payments to the charity in 2016-2016.

For its part, Sanofi has denied doing anything wrong, instead stating that providing financial support to such charitable organizations helps patients lead healthier lives. But, as Reuters points out, drug firms are prohibited from subsidizing co-payments for patients 65 and older who are enrolled in the Medicare program. They may, however, donate to non-profits that provide co-pay assistance as long as they are independent.

The Assistance Fund, meanwhile, already reached a separate $4 million settlement with the DOJ last November involving allegations of similar arrangements with other pharma firms.