“Patients have a right to expect that when their physician makes a decision about their care that he or she is considering only their medical needs and ignoring any personal incentive that they may have,” said James Kauffman, an attorney with the Levin Papantonio law firm who practices in the areas of qui tam or whistleblower act litigation.
The Department of Justice announced that Abbott Laboratories has agreed to pay $5.475 million to settle claims alleging it violated the False Claims Act. The lawsuit alleged that Abbott engaged in paying kickbacks to doctors to encourage them to implant Abbott’s carotid, biliary and peripheral vascular products.
According to the DOJ’s lawsuit, in order to have doctors encourage their respective hospitals to buy the Abbott products, the company paid physicians for teaching assignments, speaking engagements, and conferences.
“The decision to use a particular device instead of an alternative on a patient is not a decision that should be influenced by anything outside of the doctor’s medical expertise,” Mr. Kauffman added. “The decision certainly shouldn’t be open to compromise by the doctor being paid to use this device over that one.”
The lawsuit was initiated by former Abbott employees, Steven Peters and Douglas Gray, through the qui tam provision of the False Claims Act. For their efforts, Peters and Gray will receive more than $1 million from the settlement, according to the DOJ.
As is often the case, without the efforts of an insider coming forward and reporting what they know about an entity submitting false claims for payment, the schemes will continue without check or opposition. The False Claims Act provides powerful tools for whistleblowers to file a lawsuit on the government’s behalf and pursue recovery.
The Justice Department has recovered over $17 billion through the False Claims Act since 2009.