By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
On December 15, 2016, Forest Laboratories agreed to pay $38 million to resolve a whistle blower’s False Claims Act (FCA) suit involving allegations that it paid kickbacks to doctors who prescribed three of the company’s drugs, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced.
The lawsuit contends that Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Forest), targeted physicians who had a high prescription writing potential and large Medicare and Medicaid patient populations. They also allegedly paid those physicians to attend lavish speaking events where the company had the opportunity to give incentives to health care providers to prescribe their products.
The new deal settles claims that the New York City-based company and its subsidiary, provided money and meals to certain doctors in connection with programs about the drugs Bystolic, Savella and Namenda. According to the DOJ, the scheme took place between the start of 2008 and the end of 2011. Bystolic is a “beta blocker” that’s often used to treat high blood pressure, Savella is used to treat fibromyalgia and Namenda is used to treat dementia.
“Quality and patient safety must be the driving factors in the medical decision making process,” Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General, said in a statement. “Attempting to sway physicians to deviate from those core values with illegal inducements, as alleged in this lawsuit, debilitates their unbiased medical judgment at the expense of patients and taxpayers.”
The Speaker Programs.
The kickback scheme involved speaker programs in which Forest utilized as ways to persuade doctors to prescribe the three drugs. Forest provided payments and food even when the events were canceled, when no licensed health care professionals attended the programs, when the same people attended multiple programs within a short period of time and when the associated meals cost more than Forest generally allowed, the government said.
“Kickback schemes undermine the integrity of medical decisions and increase the costs of health care for everyone,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer said in a statement. “Such schemes are particularly of concern when they are designed to influence drug prescriptions, and the Department of Justice will vigorously pursue companies that subvert the law at the public’s expense.”
Of the $38 million that the government was able to recover, state Medicaid programs will get about $2.5 million and the whistle blower in the case is set to receive almost $8 million.
To read about a similar case of kickback schemes involving pharmaceutical companies, click here to read my prior blog.
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Kennedy, John. “$38M FCA Payout Ends Kickback Suit Against Forest Labs.” Law360. (December 15, 2016). Web.
Tycko & Zavareei LLP. “Forest Laboratories and Forest Pharmaceuticals Inc. Settle Lawsuit Alleging Companies Engaged in Physician Kickback Scheme; Agree to Pay $38 Million.” The National Law Review. (December 19, 2016). Web.
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
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