(Reuters)—On Tuesday, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones filed a complaint on behalf of the State of California against AbbVie Inc., alleging the drugmaker gave illegal kickbacks to healthcare providers to prescribe its blockbuster drug, Humira.
The regulator alleged that AbbVie engaged in a far-reaching scheme including cash, meals, drinks, gifts, trips and patient referrals, as well as free and valuable professional goods and services to physicians to induce and reward Humira prescriptions.
AbbVie did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The case, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, alleged that private insurers have paid out $1.2 billion in Humira-related pharmacy claims.
The allegations of AbbVie’s misconduct were brought to the attention of the department by a whistleblower, a registered nurse who was employed as an AbbVie Nurse Ambassador in Florida.
Humira (adalimumab) is the world’s best-selling prescription medicine and has long buoyed AbbVie’s business, accounting for some two-thirds of overall sales. It is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, chronic psoriasis, hidradenitis suppurativa and juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
“AbbVie spent millions convincing patients and health care professionals that AbbVie Ambassadors were patient advocates—in fact, the Ambassadors were Humira advocates hired to do one thing, keep patients on a dangerous drug at any cost,” Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said.