Corporate Whistleblower Center urges physicians or healthcare managers to call about rewards if they can prove a pharma company is paying off healthcare companies to sell more drugs.
The Corporate Whistleblower Center, a Washington-based consumer advocacy group, wants members of the medical community to blow the whistle on any pharmaceutical companies found to be offering bribes to healthcare professionals in an attempt to increase drug sales.
“We are urging medical doctors or healthcare executives to call us anytime at 866-714-6466 if they possess well documented proof a pharmaceutical or medical device company is paying off doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities or rehab facilities to use their products — or better put — overuse their products,” according to the group, which added they also are “extremely interested” in hospital chains or insurance companies involved in alleged kickbacks or bribes to medical practice groups.
Big Rewards Possible
One whistleblower recently received $3 million payment from the U.S. government following settlement of a case against a national long-term care pharmacy that allegedly disguised kickbacks it received from a major national drug company.
In that case, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, nursing home pharmacy Omnicare Inc. agreed to pay $28.125 million to resolve allegations that it solicited and received kickbacks from pharmaceutical manufacturer Abbott Laboratories in exchange for promoting the prescription drug, Depakote, for nursing home patients. The government’s complaint had alleged that Omnicare disguised the kickbacks it received in payments described as “grants” and “educational funding,” even though their true purpose was to induce Omnicare to recommend Depakote.
Among the allegations, the government claimed that Omnicare had agreements entitling it to “increasing levels of rebates from the drug company based on the number of nursing home residents serviced and the amount of prescription drugs prescribed per resident.” The complaint also alleged that Abbott funded Omnicare management meetings on Amelia Island, Florida, offered tickets to sporting events to Omnicare management and made other payments to local Omnicare pharmacies.
The claims resolved in the settlement were allegations only, and there was no determination of liability. According to the DOJ, the federal government, numerous states and Abbott previously had entered into a $1.5 billion global civil and criminal resolution in May 2012 that, among other things, resolved Abbott’s liability under the False Claims Act for alleged kickbacks to nursing home pharmacies.
The $3 million payment to the whistleblower, a former Abbott employee, came from the approximately $20.3 million federal share of the settlement amount. Another $7.8 million was allocated to cover Medicaid program claims by states that elected to participate in the settlement.
The full DOJ press release, “Nation’s Largest Nursing Home Pharmacy to Pay Over $28 Million to Settle Kickback Allegations,” issued October 17, 2016
The full DOJ press release, “Abbott Labs to Pay $1.5 Billion to Resolve Criminal & Civil Investigations of Off-label Promotion of Depakote,” issued May 7, 2012
While the potential fines for big-time drug/medical device company kickbacks or Stark violations can easily exceed one million dollars, typically the amount of the government fines determine the amount of any whistleblower reward, according to the center.
There may be a substantial reward for healthcare workers, hospital/nursing home employees, pharmaceutical reps, or medical device makers, who have specific information about Medicare, or Medicaid over billing, or fraud. The Corporate Whistleblower Center says, “It may be Medicare/Medicaid up-coding, or bundling, it may be out of control medical practice groups, like cardiologists, or radiologists, it may be a drug supplier with a kick back program to doctors, or hospitals. If you can prove it, and it is large scale, you might get rich.”
Loose Lips Sink Whistles
The group also issued some basic rules for whistleblowers to follow.
“Major whistleblowers frequently go to the government thinking they (the government) will help — it’s a huge mistake,” according to center representatives. “Do not go to the news media with your whistleblower information, either. Any type of public revelation of a whistleblower’s information could destroy the prospect for a reward.”
The group also cautioned against trying to force a healthcare company or individual to come clean on kickbacks or Stark violations. “Come to us first, tell us what type of information you have, and if we think it’s sufficient, we will help find the right law firms to assist in advancing your information,”the group noted.
And even if there’s nothing to report, they urged members of the medical community to call for information: “At a minimum, allow us to explain how the whistleblower process works and what it will take to get rewarded.”
In addition to healthcare fraud, the advocacy group is on the lookout for fraud involving government over billing, shareholder violations, employee abuse, work discrimination, and tax fraud.
The Corporate Whistleblower Center is located at 5614 Connecticut Ave NW, #138, Washington, DC 20015; email@example.com; 866-714-6466. www.CorporateWhistleblowerCenter.com.
(Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Corporate Whistleblower Center, PR Newswire)