An Ohio corporation that provides prescription drugs to the elderly has agreed to pay the U.S. government $4.19 million to resolve a whistleblower’s allegations it engaged in an illegal kickback scheme that put financial gains over patients’ medical care.
According to the U.S. Justice Department, Omnicare Inc. of Cincinnati solicited and received rewards from drug maker Amgen Inc. in exchange for implementing “therapeutic interchange” programs designed to switch Medicare beneficiaries from competitor drugs to Amgen’s anemia drug Aranesp.
Based in Cincinnati, Omnicare provides drugs and pharmacy services primarily to the elderly in long-term care facilities and other health care establishments throughout the country.
The whistleblower lawsuit alleged that the kickbacks took the form of performance-based rebates tied to sales, in addition to grants, speaker fees, consulting services, data fees, dinners, and travel.
“Kickbacks are designed to influence decisions by health care providers, such as which drugs to prescribe,” said Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division Stuart Delery. “Americans who rely on federal health care programs, particularly vulnerable patients in skilled nursing facilities, are entitled to feel confident that decisions about their medical care are not tainted by improper financial arrangements.”
The lawsuit was filed under the qui tam or “whistleblower” provisions of the False Claims Act, which allow individuals with knowledge and evidence of fraud or other wrongdoing against government agencies and programs to sue on behalf of the United States. In return, whistleblowers receive up to 30 percent of the recovery.
In this case, the whistleblower received $398,000 for exposing Omnicare’s illegal kickback scheme.