Last Wednesday, the Department of Justice filed suit against Regeneron for paying ” tens of millions of dollars in kickbacks” through a foundation that helps patients cover copays associated with Eylea, its macular degeneration drug. Whether or not Regeneron broke the law, the suit illuminates the stupidity, cruelty, and counterproductivity of Medicare’s insistence that patients feel financial pain in order to receive medically necessary therapies.
Let’s start with what Regeneron is accused of doing, because the term kickbacks conjures up notions of shady, back-room corruption. Was Regeneron paying doctors on the sly to prescribe Eylea over the competition? No. Was it paying doctors to prescribe Eylea for patients who didn’t need it? No. Was Regeneron delivering bags of cash to Medicare patients? Wrong again. Sending them to fancy Caribbean resorts to get treatments and sticking Medicare with the tab from the swim-up pool bar? Still no.