US WorldMeds LLC has agreed to pay $17.5 million to resolve allegations that it violated both the Anti-Kickback Statute and the False Claims Act. The pharmaceutical company, based in Louisville, Kentucky, allegedly paid kickbacks to various entities to induce prescriptions of its Parkinson’s drugs Apokyn and Myobloc.
The Anti-Kickback Statute establishes that it is illegal for pharmaceutical companies to offer kickbacks to doctors in exchange for increasing the number of prescriptions of a certain drug.
The alleged pharmaceutical fraud was brought to light thanks to a whistleblower lawsuit filed by two former employees of WorldMeds in 2014. The Department of Justice (“DOJ”) said that in January 2012, US WorldMeds increased the price of Apokyn and started donating substantial amounts to a foundation dedicated to covering drug copays for Parkinson’s patients.
The DOJ found that the foundation in question had no other donors and that it spent all of WorldMeds’ donations on copayments that benefitted WorldMeds by boosting its Medicare billings. In addition to these alleged kickbacks, US WorldMeds also paid two doctors large speaking fees to induce prescriptions of both Apokyn and Myobloc. The company also rewarded the physicians with lavish consulting fees and expensive travel.
The DOJ said in a statement that kickbacks should never be used to influence a doctor or a patient’s decision regarding which drug or treatment to select for a specific patient.
The alleged misconduct has prompted prosecutors to demand that US WorldMeds enter into a five-year corporate integrity agreement. During that time, regulators will scrutinize every arrangement the company may implement with either doctors or other companies.
The U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut described the settlement with the pharmaceutical company as a triumph for the government, the Medicare program, and, ultimately, taxpayers. “Pharmaceutical companies and other healthcare providers that pay kickbacks to patients and physicians to improperly induce drug prescriptions drive up the costs of healthcare and divert critical resources from the Medicare program . . . We encourage all individuals who are aware of fraud against the government to come forward. The Connecticut U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to pursue companies and providers that defraud federal health care programs,” he commented.
The whistleblowers responsible for bringing the alleged fraud to light were two physicians who used to work for WorldMeds, identified as Dr. Bennett and Dr. Chinnapongse. Because they filed a lawsuit under the False Claims Act, they stand to receive a reward between 15 and 25 percent of the $17.5 million settlement. Thus, each relator could potentially get over $2 million.
If you know of a healthcare provider or company that is cheating its patients, call us. We can assist you in putting an end to the fraud and help you receive a large cash reward for your trouble. Connect with us 888.742.7248 or ONLINE.