Pharmacist whistleblower awarded more than $5 million

April 12, 2016

A South Carolina pharmacist has been awarded $5.4 million as part of a Pennsylvania company’s agreement to pay more than $34 million to settle federal claims it paid kickbacks to medical suppliers.

A South Carolina pharmacist has been awarded $5.4 million as part of a Pennsylvania company’s agreement to pay more than $34 million to settle federal claims it paid kickbacks to medical suppliers.

Benjamin C. MizerAccording to the U.S. Department of Justice, Respironics Inc. of Murrysville, Pa. illegally provided free call center services to durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers that bought the company’s masks for patients with sleep apnea.

Editor’s Choice: Kmart settles pharmacist whistleblower lawsuit for $1.4 million

“The payment of illegal remuneration in any form to induce patient referrals threatens public confidence in the healthcare system,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, stated in a release.

“Americans deserve to know that when they are prescribed a device to treat a serious healthcare problem, the supplier’s judgment has not been compromised by illegal payments from equipment manufacturers,” Mizer stated.

The government alleged that Respironics, between April 2012 and November 2015, violated the Anti-Kickback Statute and the False Claims Act by providing free call center services to patients using masks manufactured by Respironics. For patients using masks by Respironics competitors, DME suppliers were charged a monthly fee for call center services.

 

“Medical equipment manufacturers that boost profits by providing kickbacks to suppliers will be held accountable for their improper conduct,” Special Agent in Charge Derrick L. Jackson of the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, stated.  “We will continue to investigate such business arrangements, which threaten the integrity of federal healthcare programs.”

The Justice Department identified the whistleblower as Gibran Ameer, a Columbia, S.C. pharmacist who has worked for different DME companies. He’d previously filed a lawsuit against Respironics under the False Claims Act. Respironics has admitted no guilt.

But as part of the settlement, the company is also required to pay $660,000 to a number of state governments it allegedly defrauded through the Medicaid program.

The Justice Department said it has recovered more than $27 billion through False Claims Act cases in the past seven years. A majority of those recoveries, more than $17.4 billion, have involved fraud targeting federal healthcare programs.