The Department of Justice recently settled with the manufacturer of Benicar a medication to treat high blood pressure for $39 million. The company is accused of violating federal law by paying doctors to prescribe Benicar, along with several other drugs. Our team of Benicar lawyers is currently accepting cases of serious injury from Benicar use.
The federal False Claims Act includes an Anti-Kickback Statue, which prohibits companies from paying doctors to influence their prescribing decisions. Benicar’s manufacturer, Daiichi Sankyo, was violating this statute by paying physicians in the form of speakers’ fees, to promote its drugs Benicar, Azor, Wlchol, and Tribenzor.
The company set programs called Daiichi’s Physician Organization and Discussions, or PODs, which ran from 2005 to 2011. During these PODs the company paid doctors to speak on medication topics over dinners paid for by Daiichi, as well as in his or her own offices to his or her medical staff. Drug companies are strictly forbidden from using lavish entertainment and paid-speaker programs to get doctors to prescribe their drugs.
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This is precisely what the Anti-Kickback Statute is for: to ensure doctors’ medical judgement is not compromised by illegal payments and gifts from drug companies. The Inspector General stated that manufacturers and physicians who engage in these types of anti-kickback schemes are cheating Medicare and Medicaid (and therefore all taxpayers) out of millions of dollars.
As part of the $39 million settlement, Daiichi agreed to enter into a corporate integrity agreement, which lasts for five years and requires the company to enact various internal reforms. The government vowed to watch Daiichi closely.
This lawsuit began when a former Daiichi sales representative filed a complaint to the federal government as a whistleblower. Federal law allows private citizens to sue on behalf of the United States when they have information on fraudulent behavior. Whistleblowers are entitled to a substantial portion of settlements or verdicts. In this case, the former Daiichi employee will receive more than $6 million for filing the initial claim.
In 2009, the government began placing more emphasis on combating healthcare fraud. One of the most powerful ways to combat Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud is through the False Claims Act and private whistleblowers. Since 2009, the federal government has recovered more than $23 billion through False Claims lawsuits, the majority of which involving health care programs.
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The Pintas & Mullins Law Firm has decades of experience filing whistleblower, or qui tam, lawsuits. Anyone who is aware of a situation involving government fraud should contact an attorney immediately, as only the first individual to file a claim has the right to a portion of the settlement or verdict. Contact our firm immediately for a free legal consultation.
More information on Benicar’s dangerous side effects and pending litigation can be found here and here, on our blogs. We are currently accepting cases of sprue-like enteropathy (a gastrointestinal disorder) from Benicar. Symptoms of this condition include chronic diarrhea, significant weight loss, nausea, and malnutrition.