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Medtronic whistleblower awarded $600,000 for ‘SubQ stimulation’ complaint

Image courtesy of MedtronicA former sales representative for medical device maker Medtronic Inc. will collect $602,000 from the settlement of a whistleblower lawsuit that alleged the company caused some doctors to submit false Medicare claims for an unproven pain-releif procedure.

Jason Nickell filed a qui tam lawsuit under the whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act. The FCA allows private parties to sue on behalf of the United States for false claims and obtain a portion of the government’s recovery. 

The FCA gives the government the option to take over qui tam suits, as the DOJ did in this case.

Minnesota-based Medtronic Inc. agreed to pay $2.8 million to resolve the lawsuit.

Medtronic “caused certain physicians to submit false claims to federal health care programs for a medical procedure known as ‘SubQ stimulation,'” the DOJ said Friday.

From 2007 through 2011, according to the complaint, Medtronic knowingly caused dozens of doctors in more than 20 states to file Medicare claims for the SubQ stimulations that weren’t reimbursable.

Medtronic’s spinal cord stimulation devices used electrical impulses intended to relieve chronic pain. Although the FDA hadn’t approved the SubQ stimulation procedure as an effective treatment, Medtronic sponsored  “on-site training programs” for doctors to promote it.

Joyce Branda of the DOJ’s civil division said Friday, “Targeting chronic pain patients with a medical procedure that lacks evidence of clinical efficacy wastes the country’s health care resources.”

Medtronic settled the allegations without admitting liability.

The case is United States ex rel. Nickel v. Medtronic, Inc. Civ. No. 09 – CV – 0203-S (W.D.N.Y.).

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

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