Daniel Richardson, a former Senior District Business Manager for Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), prevailed in one of the largest qui tam whistleblower cases filed against a major pharmaceutical company for “off label” marketing and illegal kickbacks. Richardson, in conjunction with other whistleblowers, held BMS accountable under the False Claims Act.
Based on frauds primarily related to federal and state Medicare and Medicaid programs, the company had to pay $515 million in fines and penalties. The whistleblowers, including Mr. Richardson, obtained their mandatory qui tam rewards, once again demonstrating how the whistleblower reward laws are the most powerful tool for holding fraudsters accountable.
The whistleblowers, including Mr. Richardson, obtained their mandatory qui tam rewards, once again demonstrating how the whistleblower reward laws are the most powerful tool for holding fraudsters accountable. Because Mr. Richardson reported the most amount of alleged kickback payments by Bristol Myers, and he received the largest individual qui tam settlement payment of the several whistleblowers who worked for the company.
The Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division and Acting Attorney General Peter D. Keisler expressed the position of the United States: “The integrity of our health care system rests on physicians being able to make decisions based on the best interests of their patients. This settlement [with BMS] reflects the Justice Department’s strong commitment to holding drug companies accountable for devising and implementing fraudulent marketing and pricing schemes that undermine that decision-making process at the expense of federal health care programs for the poor and the elderly.”
The United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts (the state where the Richardson filed his qui tam lawsuit, further explained the importance of using the False Claims Act to hold drug companies, hospital and doctors accountable: “Patients are entitled to unbiased decision-making from their physicians and should not have to worry that financial inducements or lavish entertainment have influenced their physicians’ prescribing choices. Kickbacks are especially nefarious when they are used as part of a marketing effort to convince physicians to prescribe drugs for uses that the Food and Drug Administration has not determined to be safe and effective.”
In addition to monetary payments, the settlement agreement required Bristol-Myers Squibb enter into a Corporate Integrity Agreement with the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services. Daniel R. Levinson, the HHS Inspector General, praised the inclusion of an integrity agreement in the settlement: “Illegal drug marketing schemes and deceitful pricing by manufacturers will be vigorously pursued by OIG. We are committed to ensuring that beneficiaries participating in federal health care programs are not taken advantage of by those engaging in unscrupulous practices.”
In its release, the Justice Department confirmed the importance of allowing “private persons to file a qui tam or whistleblower suit on behalf of the government.” In this case, the whistleblowers were entitled to $50 million in rewards, paid directly from the fines and penalties received from BMS. The big winners, in this case, were patients and taxpayers.
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