The large British, Delaware-based pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca, has agreed to pay the U.S. government $7.9 million in order to resolve claims that it engaged in an illegal kickback scheme with a pharmacy benefits management company involving AstraZeneca’s acid reflux medication, Nexium, in violation of the False Claims Act.
The U.S. Department of Justice released a statement on February 11, 2015, alleging that former AstraZeneca employees had given price concessions to pharmacy benefits manager Medco Health Solutions in exchange for Medco Health Solutions agreeing to keep “sole and exclusive” status for Nexium on approved medication lists. The price concessions were on AstraZeneca’s heartburn medication Prilosec, Toprol XL, and Plendil, which the federal government alleged was an illegal kickback arrangement that violated the Federal Anti-Kickback statute and resulted in the submission of false or fraudulent claims for Nexium to the Retiree Drug Subsidy Program.
AstraZeneca denies the allegations and there has not been a determination of liability.
In announcing the settlement, the Acting Assistant Attorney General of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Division stated, “We will continue to pursue pharmaceutical companies that pay kickbacks to pharmacy benefit managers. Hidden financial agreements between drug manufacturers and pharmacy benefit managers can improperly influence which drugs are available to patients and the price paid for drugs.”
The False Claims Act (“Act”) lawsuit against AstraZeneca was filed under the Act’s qui tam (whistleblower) provision that allows private citizens with knowledge of false claims to bring civil actions on behalf of the federal government and to share in any recovery. The case was filed by two former employees of AstraZeneca, who will share $1,422,000.
The False Claims Act lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware and is captioned United States ex rel. DiMattia et al. v. AstraZeneca LP et al. No. 10-910 (D. Del.).
Why should we be concerned if a pharmaceutical company pays kickbacks? Because, as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) points out, “… kickback arrangements … can undermine drug choices for patients and corrode the public’s trust in the health care system.” Furthermore, such illegal arrangements result in health care programs, and sometimes the patients themselves, paying higher prices for certain drugs than they would have had to pay had the illegal kickback scheme not been in place.
If you have information regarding false claims having been submitted to the Retiree Drug Subsidy Program, Medicare, Medicaid, other federal health care programs, or to other federal agencies/programs, and the information is not publically known and no actions have been taken by the government with regard to recovering the false claims, you should promptly find a False Claims Act attorney (also known as qui tam attorneys) in your U.S. state who may investigate the basis of your False Claims Act allegations for you and who may assist you in bringing a qui tam lawsuit on behalf of the United States, if appropriate, for which you may be entitled to receive a portion of the recovery received by the U.S. government.
Click here to visit our website or call us toll-free at 800-295-3959 in the United States to be connected with qui tam lawyers (False Claims Act lawyers) in your U.S. state who may assist you with a False Claims Act lawsuit.
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