Bristol-Myers Docs Studied Diabetes at Disneyland, 3 Execs Claim

Last Updated Apr 1, 2011 10:22 AM EDT

Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY)'s payment of gifts and kickbacks to doctors was so thinly disguised that at one point they sent doctors to a "Medical Eduction Diabetes Program" located at Disneyland, according to three former employees suing the company in a California state court.

The whistleblower suit makes the usual claims about the way BMS did business before the industry decided to clean up its act in the mid 2000s. Drug sales reps gave doctors $1,500 "preceptorship" fees, lunches, cognac, cigars, Starbucks gift cards, show tickets and golf outings in order to encourage them to write prescriptions for BMS drugs such as the antipsychotic Abilify and the cholesterol treatment Pravachol, the suit alleges.

But BMS took it a step further, the three former employees allege: "BMS' entire culture encouraged the provision of kickbacks," and reps were encouraged to spend whatever it took, by any means necessary, to get doctors to write BMS prescriptions (click to enlarge):


The company told BNET it denies the allegations:

The overwhelming majority of the allegations in the lawsuit relate to alleged conduct a decade or more old. In fact, some of the conduct is alleged to have occurred in the 1990s.

Bristol-Myers Squibb firmly believes the lawsuit has no merit and intends to defend itself vigorously. The company has been and remains committed to upholding the highest standards of business integrity and ethics and has a robust compliance program.

In Los Angeles, BMS had a special relationship with the LA Lakers basketball team because former sales rep Lucias Allen, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, played for the Lakers and the Milwaukee Bucks from 1969 to 1979. That allowed BMS to send doctors on expensive fantasy basketball trips, where the emphasis was on collecting player autographs than physician education:



On another occasion BMS sent doctors to Puerto Rico where they enjoyed Swedish massages and deep-sea fishing on the company's dime:


But it is the Disney-diabetes trip that, perhaps, takes the biscuit:


The plaintiffs claim the gifts were kickbacks that triggered private insurance companies to pay for prescriptions that otherwise could have been filled with cheap generics or not dispensed at all. The California Insurance Commissioner has intervened in the suit, joining the plaintiffs.

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