Health Inc.

Top 10 Federal Fraud Settlements Had Health Twist

As you might imagine, the lawyers who represent whistleblowers keep pretty close track of the settlements that enrich their clients and return big bucks to government coffers.

A bright red whistle.
iStockphoto.com

So check out the latest wrap up from Taxpayers Against Fraud, a group put together by the lawyers who blow the horn for whistleblowers. The government recovered $2.7 billion in the top 10 cases during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, according to TAF.

Even we, who also pay more than a little attention to these cases, were a little surprised that all the biggest settlements last year involved health care.

Drugmaker Allergan led the settlement ranks last year, paying $600 million to settle claims it went too far in selling Botox.

What's the common thread?

Top Federal Fraud Settlements Of FY 2010

Firm(s)$ millionsAllegations
Allergan600Botox marketing
AstraZeneca520Seroquel marketing
Novartis423Trileptal marketing
Forest Labs204Celexa, Lexapro & Levothroid marketing
Elan204Zonegran marketing
Teva Phamaceuticals169Inflated Medicaid prices
WellCare Health Plans138Medicare and Medicaid fraud
Mylan, Astra Zeneca & J&J124Underpayment of rebates
Omnicare & Ivax112Kickbacks for sales
Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati & Christ Hospital108Kickbacks for patient referrals
Source: TAFl

Well, when the government pays for improperly marketed drugs or health services (often through Medicaid and Medicare), company insiders secretly tattle on the fraudsters in sealed lawsuits that document the schemes. If the government finds the suits have merit and follows through, the whistleblowers can get big chunks of the lucrative settlements.

Already, FY 2011 is off to a boffo start. On Tuesday, GlaxoSmithKline agreed to fork over $750 million because of substandard drugs produced at a factory in Puerto Rico. The whistleblower in that case, a Glaxo quality manager fired after raising alarms, is in line to get $96 million.

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