Drug manufacturer Actelion Pharmaceuticals has agreed to a $ 360 million settlement dollars following an investigation to determine whether the company had illegally channeled bribes through a charity helping patients, announced prosecutors Thursday.

Actelion, which was acquired by Johnson & Johnson in 2017 and manufactures expensive drugs to treat rare lung disease, is the last pharmaceutical company to have solved federal inquiries regarding their relationship with drug groups. Patient assistance. companies have used patient programs to increase the price of their drugs.

In 2017, United Therapeutics paid $ 210 million to settle similar claims, and Pfizer, nearly $ 24 million, to do so in May. Several other drug companies have revealed that they are also under investigation for using patient assistance charities, including Biogen, Celgene and others.

"Pharmaceutical companies can not have everything – they can not continue to raise drug prices. while adopting a behavior aimed at thwarting the mechanisms put in place by Congress to check these prices and then wait for Medicare to pay for hot air balloon costs, "said Joseph H. Hunt, Deputy Attorney General of the Department of Justice, in A press release.

In 2014 and 2015, prosecutors said that Actelion had increased the price of its main drug, Tracleer, by almost 30 times the inflation rate. Tracleer, which is prescribed to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension, is sold in pharmacies at an average price of about $ 14,500 for 60 tablets, according to the GoodRx website.

Caroline Pavis, spokesperson for Actelion, said in a statement that the company had pledged to abide by the law. He admitted no wrongdoing in his settlement. Johnson & Johnson was not involved in the allegations since the activity under surveillance had occurred prior to the Acquisition of Actelion.

Pharmaceutical companies often help patients pay for their personal expenses through vouchers or other financial assistance. These payments are not only about benevolence: they also help alleviate the indignation caused by the rising price of drugs by limiting the price to be paid by patients. Most of the costs are then insured by the insurers.

But federal anti-bribery laws prohibit companies from providing such financial assistance to Medicare and Medicaid recipients, as this is considered an incentive to buy their drugs. For years, drug manufacturers have circumvented these laws by donating to nonprofit charities, which then donate them to Medicare patients. Such agreements are legal as long as there is no direct coordination between the pharmaceutical company and the non-profit organization.

Federal prosecutors said that Actelion had broken the law by collecting detailed data in 2014 and 2015 on patients receiving help from a non-profit organization. , the Caring Voice Coalition, and the use of data to establish a budget for future donations. As a result, Actelion has ensured that the funds raised are used only to help patients who use its medications, and not the treatments offered by competing companies for their lung disease.

Prosecutors said that Actelion was maintaining the practice. even after the charity itself has warned society against it.

Actelion also directed Medicare patients to the Caring Voice Coalition, who would otherwise have financially qualified for the company's free drug program. By referring them to nonprofit organizations, the company avoided providing the drug to eligible patients and allowed Medicare to cover the costs, prosecutors said.

The Caring Voice Coalition no longer offers such programs. Last year, the federal government waived its right to do so, citing concerns that it was coordinating too closely with pharmaceutical companies.

The charity was also involved in the settlement with United Therapeutics, which, like Actelion, sells drugs.

"We continue to help as many patients as possible to overcome the difficulties of the health system," said Greg Smiley, chief executive officer of the agency, in a statement. He said that he could not comment on any legal issues.