Biogen under investigation for patient-assistance programs

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Biogen disclosed in its first-quarter earnings report that it has been subpoenaed by the federal government. The subpoena requests documents detailing its relationship with nonprofit foundations that assist patients taking drugs sold by the company. These foundations often provide financial support to patients who cannot afford their medications. Biogen said it is cooperating with the government inquiry.

See also: Pricing debate changes perception of patient assistance programs

It is illegal for drugmakers to give patients copay assistance if they are insured by federally funded healthcare programs. Some drugmakers fund outside foundations that, in turn, direct money towards patients for medications. These foundations are bound by rules that dictate the terms of this assistance; the foundations, for example, cannot restrict coverage to only one drug.

Patient-assistance programs have come under fire in recent months. During a House hearing, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) charged Turing Pharmaceuticals with using patient-assistance programs as a means of diverting attention from the high price of the company's toxoplasmosis treatment, Daraprim. Some critics contend that drugmakers create the need for patient-assistance programs by pricing their drugs too high.

Biogen's media-relations team did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

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