According to a recent class action filed against Genentech, the pharmaceutical company has ripped off patients by overcharging them with unnecessary costs. The manufacturer of Xolair, Rituxan, Avasting and Kadcyla has sold these drugs in single-use vials that contained an excessive amount of medicine, leading to unneeded waste for which the patients were still charged no matter what. Plaintiffs claim that this excess expense adds insult to injury as it needlessly makes health care expenses even more crushing, especially as cancer patients must often face unbearable costs to treat their conditions.
The drugs involved in the case filed in California include the asthma drug Xolair, the colorectal cancer therapy Avastin, the breast cancer chemotherapy agent Kadcyla, and the drug used in the treatment for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Rituxan.
Together with Novartis, Genentech already faced several controversies associated with the monoclonal Xolair in the past. In 2006, Frank Garcia and Allison Kelly, two former employees of the above-mentioned companies, decided to blow the whistle about a giant fraud that was being perpetrated against the U.S. consumers. According to their accusations, the pharmas started illegally marketing the drug by providing kickbacks to physicians, pharmacists and other healthcare providers.
Novartis marketed the medication as an off-label treatment for all kind of allergic reactions, such as peanuts’ allergy, notwithstanding the inherent risk of anaphylaxis associated with the drug. They also instructed their pharmaceutical reps to encourage the use of Xolair in children under the age of 12 by providing lavish gifts, luxurious holidays and free medical equipment to doctors who prescribed it. Eventually, the case was archived since the two plaintiffs failed to show sufficient evidence to demonstrate a violation of the False Claims Act, although the judge who dismissed their claim admitted that the fraud was “probable”.
As the dust cleared, Genentech kept its monoclonal antibody production intact, reaping significant profits for selling it. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the medication in 75mg vials, the company sold it only in 150mg vials until 3 years ago. Many patients need to take 75mg, 225mg, or 375mg doses, causing them to throw away a lot of otherwise good drugs that they still have to pay. In the meantime, the unused portion of Xolair, Avastin, Rituxan, and Kadcyla generates millions of dollars in revenues every year.