Drug Companies Subpoenaed Over Questionable Charity Connections


Whenever there is a report of a drug company jacking up the price of a prescription medication, the pharma industry is often quick to point out that there are non-profit charities ready and willing to help patients get these drugs at a more affordable rate. However, those charities may have very close ties to the drug maker that could not only help the company turn a profit, but avoid some tax obligations. In recent months, several large pharmaceutical companies have been subpoenaed as part of an ongoing federal investigation into these connections.

It works like this: Bob’s Drug Company acquires the rights to prescription drug Gleemonex and decides to jack up the price 500%, knowing that some people will not be able to afford the co-pay. However, it’s in the interest of Bob to keep as many patients using Gleemonex as possible, so it looks for ways to make the drug more affordable to those most in need: low-income patients on Medicare.

Now, Bob’s Drug Co. can’t directly fund the co-pay of a Medicare patient. That would effectively be Bob paying Bob, which is an illegal kickback under federal law. What Bob can do is call Sally’s Drug Charity, which will cover the Medicare co-pay on certain drugs.

So Bob makes a sizable donation, which Sally can then use to make Medicare co-pays, meaning patients continue using Gleemonex.

Thing is, while the Medicare patient isn’t having to go broke paying for Gleemonex, taxpayers might be. After all, the co-pay is usually only a fraction of the full amount that Medicare pays to the drug maker. Thus, Bob continues to get the full Medicare payment and enjoy the tax write-off from his donation to Sally’s charity.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek recently published an entire cover story on how the pharma industry uses these charities for their own financial, tax, and public-relations benefit. You should definitely check it out.

Today, Bloomberg published a story on the string of subpoenas issued to four high-profile pharma companies — Valeant, Gilead Sciencse, Biogen, and Jazz Pharmaceuticals — since last fall, mostly by federal prosecutors out of Massachusetts.

The nature of the subpoenas is vague, though they do reference investigations into the companies’ relationships with co-pay charties.

With Medicare on the hook for the balance of these prescription payments, the federal government is taking a particular interest in the possibility that drug makers have exerted too much influence over these charities as donations have grown.

Since 2010, donations to the seven biggest co-pay charities have more than doubled, reaching $1.1 billion in 2014.

Going back to the above fictional example: Under the law, Sally is not supposed to be swayed by Bob or other donors when it comes to which drugs it chooses to cover, which patients to accept, or how much of each drugs co-pay it will subsidize. So if Sally is covers co-pays for a competitor to Gleemonex, she can’t be swayed by Bob’s big bucks to give preferential treatment to his drug.

Recent reports indicate that some charities’ practices may have been motivated by donor money. For example, former employees at one charity told Bloomberg that when patients needed Jazz narcolepsy medication Xyrem, they were processed in a time manner, while patients seeking co-pay help for competing narcolepsy drugs were sometimes steered away or wait-listed if that other company wasn’t also donating to the charity.

The charities have denied allegations of favoritism of bad practices.

Sourced From –  https://consumerist.com/2016/05/27/drug-companies-subpoenaed-over-questionable-charity-connections/

Va. Supreme Court rules same-sex couples equal in divorce law

The Supreme Court of Virginia has ruled that a Fairfax County man can stop paying spousal support to his ex-wife because she lives with another woman, reversing lower courts that found the state’s cohabitation standard does not apply to same-sex couples.

The ruling, handed down late last week, clarifies a section of Virginia divorce law nearly a year after same-sex marriage became legal nationwide.

The case stemmed from the separation of Michael Luttrell and Samantha Cucco, who divorced in 2008 after being married for 16 years. Luttrell agreed to pay alimony to Cucco for eight years.

Under state law, alimony payments can be cut off if the payee remarries or has been “habitually cohabitating with another person in a relationship analogous to a marriage” for a year or more.

Luttrell sought to end the payments in 2014. He said in court filings that Cucco was engaged to her new partner and had been living with her for more than a year.

Cucco argued her situation did not qualify as cohabitation because the relationship was with another woman.

Both Fairfax County Circuit Court and the Virginia Court of Appeals ruled in Cucco’s favor; the courts found that cohabitation was understood to apply only to relationships between a man and a woman.

The state Supreme Court reversed the lower courts and said their interpretation would produce an “untenable result” of unequal treatment in identical divorce situations.

“The individual in the same-sex relationship would continue to receive support while the individual in the opposite-sex relationship would not,” Justice William C. Mims wrote in the high court’s opinion. “We cannot conclude that the General Assembly intended such a result.”

Mims was serving in the legislature in 1997 when the alimony statute at the heart of the case was amended.

Mims noted in the opinion that the General Assembly considered language clearly defining cohabitation as only pertaining to the opposite sex, but that amendment was rejected in favor of the broader language in the law today.

“By declining to modify the word ‘person’ with the phrase ‘of the opposite sex,’ the General Assembly signaled its intention that ‘person’ would include individuals of either sex,” he wrote.

John P. O’Herron, a Richmond appellate attorney who tracked the case, said it was somewhat unusual because Cucco did not contest the appeals above the circuit court.

Though the case pertains to new legal questions posed by gay marriage, O’Herron said the ruling likely will affect only the specific issue in divorce law.

“I really don’t see this as sort of altering the landscape,” he said.

The ACLU of Virginia represented Luttrell in the case. Gail Deady, an ACLU of Virginia lawyer focused on gender equality, said the ruling recognizes that “all laws regarding marriage must be applied equally regardless of the gender of the individuals involved.”

“Marriage equality means marriage equality,” Deady said.

Sourced From   – http://www.richmond.com/news/virginia/article_80ae492a-0a9b-5ae0-9df8-5f7efe1fdc0c.html

Mafia Expert Roberto Saviano Denounces London As “The Most Corrupt Place On Earth”

Roberto Saviano, the mafia expert, has described London as the most corrupt place on the planet. The investigative journalist made his name by exposing the practices of the infamous Camorra clan centered in the Italian city of Naples.

Saviano has now gone on to describe the British capital as the center of an international network of bribery and crime.

“If I asked what is the most corrupt place on Earth, you might say it’s Afghanistan, maybe Greece, Nigeria, the south of Italy” He said. “I would say it is the UK. It’s not UK bureaucracy, police, or politics, but what is corrupt is the financial capital. Ninety per cent of the owners of capital in London have their headquarters offshore.”

This echoes observations made last week that major Western cities, such as London, New York and Miami harbor illicit funds and launder money through their lucrative property markets. It also directly challenges the David Cameron’s assertions that Afghanistan and Nigeria are “fantastically corrupt” and “possibly the most corrupt countries in the world”.

Saviano is challenging the accepted perspective of corruption in the West. For most governments and indeed members of the public, corruption is a problem of poor countries. Specifically, those that are far away and home to a largely alien culture. Our own frankly superior values would not hold credence to petty bribery schemes or misuse of public funds.

This mythical view is quickly exploded when one sees the eye-watering sums of money that are facilitated by the Western professional classes and businesses in relations with overseas despots and other unsavory characters.

Senior bankers have described London as the “most developed tax haven” available. Its new major has warned the city may grow into the global money-laundering capital. According to Transparency International, 33,000 London homes are owned by overseas shell companies in jurisdictions that are not legally obliged to declare the owner’s name.

This blind eye to dirty money can escalate to more serious crimes. Saviano recognizes this characterization. “In my lifetime, more than 4,000 people have been killed in Naples and the surrounding area by the Camorra.”

After exposing mafia crimes, the 10 years of his life has been accompanied by five body-guards in caravan of two armored cars. He has now turned his attention onto London.

For Saviano, The UK capital is the involved in almost every international crime going. In respect of drugs, “Mexico is its heart and London is its head”.  He claims that the city facilitates international organized crime and is home to the Russian mafia.

London, or, by extension, the West, is not immune to crime or corruption. In many cases, its sophisticated legal and financial systems facilitate it. Given the sums of money involved, where else can we find more corruption?

Sourced From – http://www.forbes.com/sites/jwebb/2016/05/30/mafia-expert-robert-saviano-denounces-london-as-the-the-most-corrupt-place-on-earth/#266f6567111a

Amber Heard Files for Divorce From Johnny Depp

Actress Amber Heard filed for divorce from Johnny Depp, citing irreconcilable differences after 15 months of marriage.

She is seeking spousal support from the Oscar-nominated actor.

Heard listed their date of separation as Sunday in a filing in Los Angeles Superior Court. They have no children together.

Depp and Heard met while co-starring in the 2011 film “The Rum Diary.” Depp’s latest film, “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” is due to be released on Friday.

The pair made global headlines last year when they ran into legal trouble for bringing their Yorkshire terriers, Pistol and Boo, into Australia as Depp was filming the latest “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie.

Heard was charged with two counts of illegally importing the pets and one count of producing a false document last July. A magistrate judge in April filed no conviction for Heard but issued a formal order to stay out of trouble for a month or face a $767 fine.

The breach in border security sparked what was gleefully dubbed the “war on terrier,” and culminated in the pair recording a deadpan apology that was likened to a hostage video. Throughout the saga Depp engaged in a war of words with Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, who’d threatened to kill the dogs.

Earlier this week, Joyce boasted that he had gotten inside Depp’s head like fictional serial killer Hannibal Lecter after the actor quipped that the ruddy-faced lawmaker appeared to be “inbred with a tomato” during an interview on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

Depp has one previous marriage and was in a long relationship with French actress and model Vanessa Paradis before he began dating Heard. Depp and Paradis are the parents of two teenage children.

The divorce was first reported Wednesday by celebrity website TMZ.

Sourced From – http://www.nbcnews.com/pop-culture/celebrity/amber-heard-files-divorce-johnny-depp-n580661

Google faces record three billion euro EU antitrust fine: Telegraph

Google (GOOGL.O) faces a record antitrust fine of around 3 billion euros ($3.4 billion) from the European Commission in the coming weeks, British newspaper The Sunday Telegraph said.

The European Union has accused Google of promoting its shopping service in Internet searches at the expense of rival services in a case that has dragged on since late 2010.

Several people familiar with the matter told Reuters last month they believed that after three failed attempts at a compromise in the past six years Google now had no plans to try to settle the allegations unless the EU watchdog changed its stance.

The Telegraph cited sources close to the situation as saying officials planned to announce the fine as early as next month, but that the bill had not yet been finalised.

Google will also be banned from continuing to manipulate search results to favour itself and harm rivals, the newspaper said.

The Commission can fine firms up to 10 percent of their annual sales, which in Google’s case would be a maximum possible sanction of more than 6 billion euros. The biggest antitrust fine to date was a 1.1 billion-euro fine imposed on chip-maker Intel (INTC.O) in 2009.

The Commission and Google both declined to comment.

($1 = 0.8841 euros)

Full Article – http://www.reuters.com/article/us-google-eu-idUSKCN0Y60J4