Pharma AstraZeneca LP agreed to pay $7.9 million to settle allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by paying kickbacks to sell its drugs, the DOJ said.
AstraZeneca markets and sells pharmaceutical products in the United States, including a drug sold under the trade name Nexium.
This civil settlement last week resolved a lawsuit filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provision of the False Claims Act. It allows private citizens with knowledge of false claims to bring civil actions on behalf of the government and to share in any recovery.
The qui tam lawsuit was filed by former AstraZeneca employees Paul DiMattia and F. Folger Tuggle. They’ll collectively receive $1,422,000.
The complaint alleged that Delaware-based AstraZeneca agreed to pay Medco Health Solutions, a pharmacy benefit manager, in exchange for being Medco’s “sole and exclusive” supplier of Nexium.
The DOJ took over the qui tam suit. It has the option to do that under the False Claims Act.
The DOJ’s complaint alleged that the kickback arrangement between AstraZeneca and Medco “violated the Federal Anti-Kickback statute, and thereby caused the submission of false or fraudulent claims for Nexium to the Retiree Drug Subsidy Program.”
The kickbacks were discounts on on drugs other than Nexium, namely on Prilosec, Toprol XL and Plendil, the DOJ said.
Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered a total of more than $23.6 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $15.1 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.
The DOJ said Wednesday the claims settled with AstraZeneca “are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.”
The False Claims Act lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware is United States ex rel. DiMattia et al. v. AstraZeneca LP et al. No. 10-910 (D. Del.).
Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.