Washington to receive almost $100K from False Claims Act settlement

By Bryan Cohen | Jan 13, 2014

OLYMPIA, Wash. (Legal Newsline) - Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced on Wednesday that the state will recover approximately $98,000 as part of a $15 million multi-state and federal settlement with a pharmacy that allegedly received kickbacks.

BioScrip, Inc. allegedly received kickbacks from Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation to promote Novartis' drug Exjade directly to patients while downplaying the side effects of the drug. Washington will recover approximately $98,000 as part of the agreement, with close to $43,000 returning directly to the state Medicaid program. Approximately $55,000 will go to the federal government for its share of the state's Medicaid program.

"The attorney general's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit goes after health care fraud and abuse and recovers millions of dollars for Washington's Medicaid program and the vulnerable patients it serves," Ferguson said. "Defrauding Medicaid will not be tolerated, and bad actors will be held accountable."

Novartis allegedly began the kickback scheme in 2007 after becoming concerned patients were discontinuing Exjade because of side effects. Novartis allegedly created a scorecard for the drug to measure how long patients took Exjade. The scorecard allegedly served as a sort of competition between pharmacies, a competition BioScrip often won. For winning the competition, BioScrip allegedly received valuable new patient referrals.

Washington was one of six states leading settlement negotiations that resulted in the $15 million agreement. The other states involved were Texas, South Carolina, North Carolina, New York and Nebraska.

The inquiry was triggered by a whistleblower lawsuit filed under the federal False Claims Act and similar state statutes.

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