Amgen and Johnson & Johnson pay doctors a whole lot of money to use the anemia drugs the companies produce to treat patients. Although the total sum is not disclosed, the New York Times found that Amgen paid out close to $1 for every $3 worth of drugs given in one practice alone. Translation - the overall sum is huge. The practice is not illegal but there's a reason it happens with anemia drugs - because of the difference in treatment drugs purchased by doctors and pill prescriptions. From MarketWatch:
Federal laws bar drug companies from paying doctors to prescribe medicines that are given in pill form and purchased by patients from pharmacies, but companies can rebate part of the price that doctors pay for drugs, like the anemia medicines, which they dispense in their offices as part of treatment. The anemia drugs are injected or given intravenously in physicians' offices or dialysis centers. Doctors receive the rebates after they buy the drugs from the companies.
The worry here is that the rebating provides an incentive for doctors to use the drugs inappropriately. Rebate rates are even scaled to eliminate competition, and higher if a doctor exclusively uses one brand of drug. The FDA currently has an advisory panel considering whether the anemia drugs are overused or not.
Doctors reap millions for giving patients anemia drugs: New York Times [MarketWatch]