Pharmaceutical Company to Pay $27.6 Million to Settle Allegations Involving False Billings to Federal Health Care Programs
|U.S. Department of Justice March 11, 2014|
WASHINGTON—Pharmaceutical manufacturer Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc. and a subsidiary, IVAX LLC, have agreed to pay the government and the state of Illinois $27.6 million for allegedly violating the False Claims Act by making payments to induce prescriptions of an anti-psychotic drug for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. Teva Pharmaceuticals USA is located in North Wales, Pa., and IVAX LLC is a Florida company.
“The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that pharmaceutical manufacturers who make payments to doctors to influence prescribing decisions are held accountable,” said Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division Stuart F. Delery. “Schemes such as the one alleged in this case undermine the health care system and take advantage of vulnerable patients.”
“Pharmaceutical companies must not be allowed to improperly influence physicians’ decisions in prescribing medication for their patients,” said U.S. Attorney Zachary T. Fardon for the Northern District of Illinois. “Instead, those decisions must be made solely on the basis of the patient’s best medical interests.”
The settlement resolves allegations that Teva and IVAX made payments to an Illinois physician, Dr. Michael J. Reinstein, to induce the prescription of generic clozapine, an anti-psychotic medication. Clozapine has serious potential side effects and is generally considered a drug of last resort, particularly for elderly patients. While clozapine has been approved for treatment-resistant forms of schizophrenia, it is also reported to cause numerous side effects, including a potentially deadly decrease in white blood cells, seizures, inflammation of the heart muscle, and increased mortality in elderly patients. The United States alleged that the payment scheme involving Reinstein began in August 2003, when Reinstein agreed to switch his patients to generic clozapine if IVAX, which was subsequently acquired by Teva Pharmaceuticals’ parent corporation, agreed to pay Reinstein $50,000 under a one-year “consulting agreement” and to provide other benefits to Reinstein, in violation of the federal Medicare and Medicaid Anti-Kickback Statute. In addition to direct payments to Reinstein, IVAX allegedly also provided all-expenses paid trips to Miami for Reinstein, his wife and several of his employees. Reinstein quickly became the largest prescriber of generic clozapine in the country and prescribed the drug for many elderly patients. Allegedly, the payments and other forms of remuneration from IVAX and later Teva Pharmaceuticals continued for many years, and resulted in the submission of thousands of false claims to the Medicare Part D and Illinois Medicaid programs.
The Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits offering, paying, soliciting or receiving remuneration to induce referrals of items or services covered by Medicare, Medicaid and other federally funded programs. The Anti-Kickback Statute is intended to ensure that a physician’s medical judgment is not compromised by improper financial incentives and is instead based on the best interests of the patient.
On November 15, 2012, the United States filed a civil action against Reinstein in United States v. Reinstein, alleging that he violated the False Claims Act as a result of his involvement in the payment scheme with Teva and IVAX. The civil action against Reinstein remains pending in the Northern District of Illinois.
The government’s settlement of these allegations illustrates its emphasis on combating health care fraud and marks another achievement for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced in May 2009 by Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation. One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act. Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered a total of more than $19 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $13.4 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.
The settlement with Teva Pharmaceuticals and IVAX was the result of a coordinated effort by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois, the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The claims resolved by this settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.