A U.S. District Court judge in Texas rejected Abbott Laboratories’ motion for summary judgement in a False Claims Act lawsuit brought by a whistleblower who alleges the company bilked Medicare and Medicaid by pushing its bilary stents through illegal kickback arrangements, and training providers to submit false claims to the government health care programs.
Plaintiff Kevin Colquitt, a former medical device executive for Abbott Labs, claims the company directed its sales representatives to urge caregivers to use only its biliary stents, unlawfully providing kickbacks to the caregivers as inducements.
Biliary stents are tubes that are used to shore up the bile duct, easing pain for patients suffering from gastrointestinal cancers. The stents are used on a temporary basis, so they are generally not subjected to the same extensive testing that permanent vascular stents undergo prior to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval.
Mr. Colquitt accuses Abbott of filing false statements and certifications with federal regulators when it sought approval for the stents.
The lawsuit also accuses Abbott of advising and training caregivers to submit false claims to Medicare and Medicaid for reimbursement by assigning billing codes that misrepresented the nature of the stent used in the procedure.
In rejecting Abbott’s motion for a summary judgement, judge Barbara M. G. Lynn said that “Colquitt has produced evidence that Abbott employed a multitude of sales representatives to market and sell biliary stents to cardiologists, vascular surgeons, and interventional radiologists performing vascular procedures and that, in connection with its sales efforts, Abbott offered training and advice on Medicare reimbursement procedures.
“Colquitt’s evidence also raises at least the inference that Abbott’s customers heeded the sales representatives’ advice and submitted claims to Medicare for reimbursement of procedures using Abbott’s stents,” the judge said.
Mr. Colquitt filed the complaint under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, which allows individuals to sue on behalf of the U.S. government and share a percentage of any recovery the case makes as a result.