The Department of Justice reported yesterday that Amgen, Inc. has agreed to pay the United States $24.9 million to resolve allegations that it violated the Federal False Claims Act. This settlement is another in a series of victories that are part of the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team’s (HEAT) efforts to combat fraud under Attorney General Eric Holder.
“The practice of pharmaceutical companies paying health care providers to choose a certain product over another is insidious. A provider considering his or her own personal gain over, or even at the detriment to, the well-being of their patient is a dangerous game these companies will try to play,” said Christopher Paulos, an attorney with the Levin, Papantonio law firm.
According to the Justice Department’s release, which you can read here, the company provided rebates and kickbacks to companies that swapped their Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries from competitor drugs to Aranesp. The drug is used to treat patients suffering from anemia caused by kidney failure or chemotherapy.
“The False Claims Act’s protections provide professionals that refuse to go along with these kinds of practices the means to say something about it. It gives them an opportunity to stop it,” Paulos continued.
According to the release, this claim was resolved under the qui tam (whistleblower) provision of the act. It allows anyone with knowledge of the events and/or practices to come forward and bring civil suit on behalf of the United States and, for their efforts, share in any recovery that is made.
“The qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act are very specific in how a claim must be pursued to make a successful recovery. For this reason, it’s important that anyone wanting to pursue a claim seek the advice of an experienced attorney.”
The government has made its interest in continuing to pursue these claims known when Acting Assistant Attorney General Stuart F. Delery said, “We will continue to pursue pharmaceutical companies that pay kickbacks to long-term care pharmacy providers to influence drug prescribing decisions.”