Additionally, AbbVie allegedly used nurse ambassadors to interact and establish relationships with doctors and patients regarding Humira. The biopharmaceutical company allegedly did not disclose that the nurse ambassadors were its employees and their goal was to boost the sales of Humira by handling insurance authorizations and claims, appealing denials of coverage by insurers, helping patients to enroll in insurance plans that cover payment for the prescription drug.
The State of California and the whistleblower alleged that AbbVie engaged in unlawful marketing practices. The biopharmaceutical company specifically violated the California Insurance Frauds Prevention Act.
In a statement, Commissioner Lara said, “AbbVie’s prior practices in marketing Humira egregiously put profits ahead of transparency in patient care and violated California law. This settlement delivers important reforms to AbbVie’s business practices and a substantial monetary recovery that will be used to continue to combat insurance fraud.”
AbbVie agreed to modify its marketing practices
In addition to the monetary payment, AbbVie agreed to change its marketing practices including:
- Requiring nurse ambassadors to disclose to patients that they are employees of AbbVie and not under the direction of their health care providers.
- Implement a new policy prohibiting Humira sales representatives from inviting prescribing health care providers to offsite business meals.
- Providing patients with the U.S. FDA-approved HUMIRA medication guide.
- Prohibiting AbbVie employees from describing nurse ambassadors to health care providers as “extensions of their offices” and from actively participating in conversations between patients and insurance companies.