Articles Posted in Whistleblowers and Qui Tam Lawsuits

jonathan-perez-409943-copy-300x200Ever since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, all violations of the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) have been actionable under the False Claims Act (FCA). In plain language, this means that, if you are aware that people in your workplace are defrauding government agencies, you can file a qui tam lawsuit, also known as a whistleblower lawsuit, on behalf of the government. California has become the most recent state in which the Department of Justice (DOJ) has taken legal action against a pharmaceutical company that, according to whistleblowers, engaged in fraudulent practices related to the marketing and promotion of an addictive drug.

The Drug, the Pharmaceutical Company, and the Fraudulent Activities

The drug at the center of the controversy is an analgesic mouth spray; the FDA has approved the drug only for the treatment of breakthrough cancer pain. Breakthrough pain, a phenomenon common in cancer patients, is when a patient is able to control his or her chronic pain through consistent use of medication but occasionally also suffers acute pain (“breakthrough pain”) that requires additional medication. Thus, the approved uses for the drug were quite narrow. Despite this, the pharmaceutical company allegedly engaged in several prohibited practices in order to entice physicians and nurse practitioners to prescribe the drug for patients other than those for whom it was intended. Whistleblowers reported the following AKS violations on the part of the drug company.

ken-treloar-385255-copy-300x200Medicare and Medicaid are taxpayer-funded healthcare programs instituted for the purpose of ensuring that all Americans have access to basic health services. Fraud on the part of health care providers is a major threat to these programs and to the health of millions of Americans who benefit from their services. Every year, physicians and other members of the healthcare industry enrich themselves by diverting funds from Medicare and Medicaid to themselves and by fraudulently billing these publicly funded programs. Whistleblowers who have helped bring legal action against purveyors of healthcare fraud have helped the nation recover billions of dollars for healthcare.  If you are aware of healthcare fraud at your workplace, contact an attorney to discuss filing a qui tam lawsuit.

How Big a Problem is Healthcare Fraud?

The Department of Justice collects data on healthcare fraud, and the figures are alarming. For 2014, the most recent year for which the DOJ has published statistics, it is clear that healthcare fraud was widespread, but that the government, with the help of whistleblowers, was taking effective measures to stem it.

piron-guillaume-96228-copy-300x200Federal authorities arrested five individuals connected to San Fernando Valley clinics and a significant health care fraud scheme. On May 22, a federal grand jury indictment was unsealed. The indictment alleges that the five individuals engaged in a health care fraud conspiracy over multiple years and targeted at least eight health insurance companies and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, the Pacific Maritime Association Benefit Plan, and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

The Conspirators

According to the Department of Justice (DOJ) press release, the co-conspirators included:

howard-lawrence-b-652037-unsplash-copy-300x169The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that Lance Armstrong, a former professional cyclist, has agreed to pay the U.S. $5 million to resolve a whistleblower lawsuit regarding allegations that he violated the False Claims Act (FCA) by using performance-enhancing drugs and methods (PEDs) while sponsored by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).

If you are aware of a professional athlete or team violating a federal or state government sponsorship agreement, contact a San Francisco qui tam attorney at Brod Law Firm.

Armstrong’s Doping Case

jonathan-perez-409943-copy-300x200On April 13, the U.S. intervened in five lawsuits against Insys Therapeutics Inc., which all accuse the company of violating the False Claims Act in regard to its opioid painkiller, Subsys. The painkiller is a sublingual spray form of fentanyl, an extremely potent and addictive drug.

Fentanyl has made the news in recent years as a replacement for heroin and other illegal street drugs, which has led to an increase in drug overdoses. Fentanyl analogues are hundreds of times more potent than heroin, and thousands of times stronger than morphine. Considering the risk of addiction and dependence on opioid painkillers, and the risk of death, the government takes accusations of improper marketing and prescribing of the drug seriously.

If you are aware of illegal activity regarding opioid drugs at a doctor’s office or medical facility, contact an experienced San Francisco health care fraud lawyer at Brod Law Firm today. Not only may the activity be a crime under California or federal law, it may also give rise to a civil claim.

hush-naidoo-382152-copy-300x200Alere, Inc. and its wholly owned subsidiary Alere San Diego agreed to pay the U.S. $33.2 million to resolve allegations that the medical device manufacturer violated the False Claims Act. (Alere was acquired by Abbott, one of the world’s largest healthcare companies, in October 2017.) According to the Department of Justice (DOJ) press release, Alere caused hospitals to submit inaccurate claims to Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal healthcare programs by willfully selling unreliable point-of-care diagnostic testing devices.

If you are aware of a company knowingly selling inaccurate medical devices, call a San Francisco healthcare fraud attorney at Brod Law Firm today.

Fraudulent Medical Devices Lead to False Claims

clark-young-143622-unsplash-copy-300x200In March, the Department of Justice for the Eastern District of California announced the federal government and California reached a settlement agreement with Kmart. The retailer, based in Illinois with locations throughout California, will pay $525,000 to resolve allegations that it violated the federal False Claims Act by knowingly submitting false claims to Medi-Cal. The claims for reimbursement were not supported by appropriate diagnoses and documentation.

Kmart’s Fraudulent Billing

Medi-Cal uses a formulary list that designates restrictions for the drugs listed, known as Code 1 drugs. Certain restrictions are related to approved diagnoses. Medi-Cal will reimburse pharmacies for Code 1 drugs, but only if their use is in line with the formulary’s restrictions. For instance, a pharmacy may not be reimbursed for a drug prescribed and dispenses for an unapproved diagnosis.

vladimir-kudinov-71455-copy-300x241On March 8, the Riverside County District Attorney announced that four men had been arrested in connection with an $8 million health care fraud scheme. The men were Jeffrey D. Ogletree, of Meridian, Idaho; Brian Andrew La Porte, of Poway, California; Dennis Davin Bonavilla, of Murrierta, California; and Babar Iqbal, of Irvine, California, who was also the owner of Riverside Regional Surgery Center. The men were allegedly involved in a scheme to provide fake health insurance to patients in the Midwest.

Fake Health Insurance Scheme

In 2013, La Porte formed Free Choice Healthcare Foundation (FCHF), which allegedly was created to help low-income individuals pay health insurance premiums. The foundation was never registered as a charity in California. After meeting with Ogletree, a vice president of a hospital group in the Midwest, the hospital donated more than $5 million to FCHF in 2015. The donation was purported to be used to provide year-long health insurance for 333 residents in the Midwest.

israel-palacio-463979-copy-300x200While qui tam cases brought under the False Claims Act (FCA) are often related to health care, qui tam cases can be in connection to any type of claim made to the federal government for payment. In addition to the health care industry, defense contractors are another area in which the government is vulnerable to fraudulent schemes. For example, Lockheed Martin Corporation has agreed to settle FCA allegations by paying the federal government $4.4 million. Lockheed is accused of providing defective communications systems to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Defective Equipment for the Military

The defense contractor provided Radio Frequency Distribution System (RFDS) for the Coast Guard’s National Security Cutters. According to the U.S. attorneys, the RFDS failed to be able to conduct simultaneous operations, meaning it could receive and transmit different radio signals at the same time without interference.

hush-naidoo-382152-copy-300x200Scripps Health, a San Diego-based health care system, will pay $1.5 million to resolve allegations of False Claims Act (FCA) violations. Scripps is accused of seeking reimbursements from federal health care programs for physical therapy services rendered by therapists who lacked billing privileges.

If you have any information regarding an individual or business within the health care industry providing the government with incorrect claims in order to increase their reimbursements, then contact a San Francisco health care fraud attorney at Brod Law Firm right away. You may have the right to bring a claim under the FCA or take your information to the proper authorities.

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