Feds File Two Lawsuits Against Novartis for Allegedly Giving Kickback to Pharmacists and Physicians

11 Indest-2008-8By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation (NPC) is currently fielding two different lawsuits, filed just days apart from each other, by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The first lawsuit was filed on April 23, 2013, alleging the company gave illegal kickbacks to pharmacists. A second lawsuit was filed on April 26, 2013, alleging illegal kickbacks were paid by NPC to health care providers. According to the DOJ, the government’s complaint seeks damages and civil penalties under the False Claims Act, and under the common law for paying kickbacks to doctors to induce them to prescribe NPC products that were reimbursed by federal health care programs.

Click here to read the entire press release from the DOJ.

Doctors and Pharmacists Allegedly Paid to Prescribe.

Both lawsuits allege NPC violated the Anti-Kickback Statute. In the April 23, 2013, complaint against NPC the lawsuit alleges the company gave kickbacks, in the form of rebates and discounts to pharmacies in exchange for the pharmacies’ cooperation in switching patients from competitors’ drugs to NPC products.

The April 26, 2013, lawsuit accuses NPC of paying doctors to speak about certain drugs at events that were allegedly social occasions. Many of the programs were allegedly held in circumstances in which it would be impossible to have a presentation. According to the DOJ, this included fishing trips off the Florida coast and meetings in Hooters restaurants. NPC is also accused of treating health care professionals to expensive dinners. The payments and dinners were apparently kickbacks to the doctors for writing prescriptions for NPC drugs.

Doctors in the Sunshine State Allegedly Involved.

The lawsuit alleges at least six Florida doctors of participating in the bogus conferences and taking thousands of dollars in kickbacks, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The doctors are not named or charged in the civil lawsuit.

To read the allegations listed in the lawsuit against Florida doctors, click here for the Tampa Bay Times article.

Novartis Claims Discounts and Physician Speaker Programs Were Legitimate.

In a press release, NPC disputes all of the government’s allegations. The pharmaceutical company states that discounts and rebates by pharmaceutical companies are a customary and legal procedure, as recognized by the government. It also addresses the physician speaker programs by saying the programs are also acceptable practices designed to inform physicians about the uses of different types of medicines. Click here to read the entire press release from NPC.

Kickbacks and The Law.

For years drug companies have paid doctors to speak about new drugs at educational conferences with other health care professionals. The practice is legal, but considered questionable.

Under the Anti-Kickback Statute, it’s a felony for health care professionals to accept bribes in exchange for recommending a drug or service covered by Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE or the Department of Veterans Affairs health care program.

Whistleblower or Qui Tam Lawsuits Can Results in a Big Pay Day.

The original complaint against NPC was allegedly filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act by a former sales representative.

Individuals working in the health care industry, whether for hospitals, pharmacies, nursing homes, medical groups, home health agencies or others, often become aware of questionable activities.  Often they are even asked to participate in it. In many cases the activity may amount to fraud on the government.

In a two-part blog series on whistleblower/qui tam lawsuits I explain types of false claims, the reward programs for coming forward with a false claim, who can file a whistleblower/qui tam lawsuit, and more. Click here to read the first part of this blog, and click here for the second part.

The Health Law Firm Lawyers are Experienced with Qui Tam or Whistleblower Cases.

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm represent plaintiffs, patients, health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistleblower cases. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding, and other services that assist us in such matters.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sound Off.

Have you head about these two lawsuits? What are your thoughts? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Masow, Julie. “Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation Disputes Allegations in Two US Government Lawsuits and Looks Forward to a Fair Discussion of the Facts.” Novartis Pharmaceuticals. (April 26, 2013). From: http://www.pharma.us.novartis.com/newsroom/pressreleases/137176.shtml

Davis, Brittany Alana. “Lawsuit: Pharmaceutical Company Gave Kickbacks to Florida Doctors.” Tampa Bay Times. (May 3, 2013). From: http://www.tampabay.com/news/courts/lawsuit-pharmaceutical-company-gave-kickbacks-to-florida-doctors/2119133

Department of Justice. “United States Files Complaint Against Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. for Allegedly Paying Kickbacks to Doctors in Exchange for Prescribing Its Drugs.” Department of Justice. (April 26, 2013). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2013/April/13-civ-481.html

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.
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Supreme Court to Determine if Pay-for-Delay Agreements Between Brand and Generic Drug Manufacturers are Legal

7 Indest-2008-4By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The Supreme Court is currently looking into whether brand name drug manufacturers may pay generic drug manufacturers to keep the generic drugs off the market. These payments, often called pay-for-delay, are usually a form of settlement between the two manufacturers in patent litigation. The Supreme Court’s decision may be worth billions to pharmaceutical companies and consumers.

In January 2013, the American Medical Association (AMA) teamed up with the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and other organizations seeking to eliminate pay-for-delay agreements. The groups filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Supreme Court case.

Click here to read the friend-of-the-court brief.

History of Pay-For-Delay Agreements.

Pay-for-delay agreements came as the result of the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act of 1984, also known as the Hatch-Waxman Act. The Hatch-Waxman Act gives generic drug manufacturers an incentive to challenge brand name drug patents because the first generic drug manufacturer to received U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval to launch a generic copy of a brand name drug can receive a 180-day marketing exclusivity period for the product. The FDA cannot approve any other generic applications for the same drug until the first-to-file generic manufacturer has sold its product for 180 days or has given up its exclusivity period. Click here to read the Hatch-Waxman Act.

Brand name manufacturers often challenge generic drug manufacturers who try to sell their product prior to patent expiration. This results in litigation to determine whether the generic manufacturer is violating the brand name manufacturer’s patents.

Instead of going to court over this, brand name manufacturers often choose to pay a settlement to the generic drug manufacturers for agreeing to delay the launch of its competing product.

The Impact of Pay-For-Delay Agreements.

It’s been found that pay-for-delay agreements can delay a generic drug almost 17 months before it can be put on the market. In the meantime, patients must pay higher prices for the brand name version. This also impacts Medicare and Medicaid programs.

According to an article on National Public Radio (NPR), the number of pay-for-delay agreements is increasing. Click here to read the entire NPR article.

Legalized Extortion Causes Patients to Pay High Drug Prices.

This type of legalized extortion does nothing more than drive up drug prices for all patients by keeping generic drugs off the market. On the other hand, it vastly increases the profits made by big name pharmacy companies who are able to derive even more money from expired patents.

AMA Fights to Get Rid of Pay-for-Delay Agreements.

According to a press release, AMA, AARP, the National Legislative Association for Prescription Drug Prices and the U.S. Public Interest Research Groups all signed onto the friend-of-the-court brief filed in the Supreme Court.

The AMA is concerned that pay-for-delay agreements extend patent monopolies, increase health care costs and restrict doctors’ ability to treat patients. To read the entire press release from the AMA, click here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits. The firm’s attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

As a health care professional, how do you feel about pay-for-delay agreements? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Mills, Robert. “AMA Joins Other Groups Seeking to Overturn Pay-for-Delay Drug Agreement.” American Medical Association. (January 30, 2013). From: http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/news/news/2013-01-30-amicus-brief-ftc-vs-watson-pharmaceuticals.page

Federal Trade Commission v. Watson Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Case Number 12-416. Brief for AARP, American Medical Association, National Legislative Association for Prescription Drug Prices and U.S. Public Interest Research Groups as Amici Curiae in Support of Petitioner. January 29, 2013. From: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/2013-01-29-amicus-brief-ftc-vs-watson-pharmaceuticals.pdf

Purvis, Leigh. “Pay-for-Delay Agreements and Prescription Drug Costs.” AARP. (May 13, 2013.) From: http://blog.aarp.org/2013/05/13/pay-for-delay-agreements-and-prescription-drug-costs/

Totenberg, Nina. “Supreme Court Hears ‘Pay to Delay’ Pharmaceutical Case.” National Public Radio. (March 25, 2013). From: http://www.npr.org/2013/03/25/175043758/supreme-court-hears-pay-to-delay-pharmaceutical-case

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Florida Pharmacy Owner Admits to $23 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme

5 Indest-2008-2By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A co-owner and operator of three Miami-area pharmacies pleaded guilty on December 6, 2012, for his part in a $23 million health care fraud scheme. The pharmacy owner allegedly admitted in the Florida Southern Federal District Court to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to pay illegal health care kickbacks, according to a Department of Justice (DOJ) press release.

Click here to read the entire press release from the DOJ.

Pharmacy Owner and Co-Conspirators Used a Network of Beneficiaries to Bill Medicare and Medicaid.

According to court documents, the pharmacy owner allegedly admitted to paying illegal kickbacks to an unnamed number of co-conspirators in return for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiary information. That information was then used to submit fraudulent claims. A majority of the beneficiaries referred to the owner’s pharmacies reportedly resided at assisted living facilities (ALFs) in Miami.

The court documents state that the pharmacy owner also allegedly paid kickbacks to physicians in exchange for prescription referrals which were also billed to Medicare.

Unused and Partially Used Medications Were Also Allegedly Used in Scheme.

As part of the scheme, the pharmacy owner allegedly instructed drivers working for his pharmacies to pick up unused medications from ALFs around Miami. The medications were then allegedly placed back into pill bottles. Unused and partially used medications were billed back to Medicare and Medicaid, according to court documents.

Click here to read the court documents on this case.

The pharmacy owner and his co-conspirators allegedly submitted more than $23 million in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare and Florida Medicaid programs.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late; Consult with a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Medicare and Medicaid Issues Now.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent healthcare providers in Medicare audits, ZPIC audits and RAC audits throughout Florida and across the U.S. They also represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits, recovery actions and termination from the Medicare or Medicaid Program.

For more information please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.

Comments?

What do you think of this case? Is the Miami area just a hotbed for Medicare and Medicaid schemes? Please leave any thoughtful comment below.

Sources:

United States of America v. Jose Carlos Morales. Case Number 12-23374, Preliminary Injunction and Supporting Memorandum of Law. (September 14, 2012). From: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/USA%20v%20Morales.pdf

Department of Justice. “Pharmacy Owner Pleads Guilty in Miami for Role in $23 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme.” Department of Justice . (December 6, 2012). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/December/12-crm-1461.html

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

CVS Has Allegedly Been Refilling Prescriptions and Submitting Insurance Claims Without Patients’ Permission

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has reportedly launched an investigation into CVS’ practice for refilling prescriptions. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, authorities are looking into reports that CVS has been refilling prescriptions and submitting insurance claims without patients’ permission. The Los Angeles Times article, released October 12, 2012, names an official with knowledge of this matter as the source.

We want to emphasize that this is from an unconfirmed news story. The government rarely announces investigations of specific subjects ahead of time.

Click here to read the entire article from the Los Angeles Times.

CVS Has Not Been Notified of Prescription Refill Investigation.

A related article in Reuters states that CVS said it has not been contacted by the government about the investigation. The pharmacy also said, as a policy, the company does not condone unauthorized refills. Officials said to allow unauthorized prescription refills could be considered insurance fraud, especially if insurers weren’t refunded for any drugs rejected by patients.

The probe might be, in part, related to the programs offered by many drugstores that allows a pharmacy to refill prescriptions even before a refill request has been made by the patient.

Click here to read the entire article from Reuters.

So far there is no news from the OIG for the HHS officially confirming this investigation.

Tempest in a Teapot?

It is unclear to me why there would be any cause to investigate CVS, if Medicare was not being billed until the customer actually picked up the prescription. If the customer fails to pickup the prescription, every drug store I know of restocks the medication after a short period and no one is ever billed for it. It seems that it would be a quick and simple matter for the OIG to check this.

Furthermore, it could also be argued that CVS actually is promoting good health by this practice. Patients may forget to renew or refill their prescriptions or may fail to notice they are running low.

Two Central Florida CVS Stores Get Controlled Substance Licenses Revoked by DEA.

On September 12, 2012, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) revoked the registrations (controlled substance licenses) from two CVS pharmacies in Sanford, Florida. The two pharmacies are no longer able to fill prescriptions for drugs such as oxycodone, Dilaudid, Vicodin, Ritalin and Xanax. This decision was in response to a government crackdown on the distribution of painkillers. Click here to read a blog on this story.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, administrative hearings, inspections and audits. The firm’s attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

What do you think of this story? Do you think CVS is doing anything wrong? How is this any different from the practice of many managed care plans mailing out 90 days of medications to its patients at a time? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Lazarus, David. “CVS Caremark Prescription Refills Under Scrutiny, Source Says.” Los Angeles Times. (October 12, 2012). From: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-lazarus-20121012,0,1032269.column

Alawadhi, Neha, Wohl, Jessica, and Morgan, David. “CVS Unaware of Any Government Prescription Refill Probe.” Reuters. (October 12, 2012). From: http://www.reuters.com/assets/print?aid=USBRE89B19520121012

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.