by Ben Vernia | October 21st, 2016
On October 17, the Department of Justice announced that Omnicare, Inc., the country’s largest long-term care pharmacy, had agreed to pay over $28 million to settle two qui tam suits’ allegations that the company received kickbacks from the manufacturer of the anticonvulsant drug Depakote, Abbott Labs. According to DOJ’s press release:
The nation’s largest nursing home pharmacy, Omnicare Inc., has agreed to pay $28.125 million to resolve allegations that it solicited and received kickbacks from pharmaceutical manufacturer Abbott Laboratories in exchange for promoting the prescription drug, Depakote, for nursing home patients. CVS Health Corporation, which is headquartered in Rhode Island, acquired Ohio-based Omnicare in 2015, approximately six years after Omnicare ended the conduct that gave rise to the settlement.
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Nursing homes rely on consultant pharmacists, such as those employed by Omnicare, to review their residents’ medical charts at least monthly and make recommendations to their physicians about what drugs should be prescribed for those residents. The settlement announced today resolves allegations that Omnicare solicited and received kickbacks from Abbott in exchange for recommending that physicians prescribe Depakote, an anti-epileptic drug manufactured by Abbott, to elderly nursing home residents.
According to the government’s complaint, Omnicare disguised the kickbacks it received from Abbott in a variety of ways. Abbott allegedly made payments to Omnicare described as “grants” and “educational funding,” even though their true purpose was to induce Omnicare to recommend Depakote. For example, Omnicare allegedly solicited substantial contributions from Abbott and other pharmaceutical manufacturers to its “Re*View” program. Although Omnicare claimed that Re*View was a “health management” and “educational” program, the complaint alleges that it was simply a means by which Omnicare solicited kickbacks from pharmaceutical manufacturers in exchange for increasing the utilization of their drugs on elderly nursing home residents. In internal documents, Omnicare allegedly referred to Re*View as its “one extra script per patient” program. The complaint also alleges that Omnicare entered into agreements with Abbott by which Omnicare was entitled to increasing levels of rebates from Abbott based on the number of nursing home residents serviced and the amount of Depakote prescribed per resident. Finally, the complaint alleges that Abbott funded Omnicare management meetings on Amelia Island, Florida, offered tickets to sporting events to Omnicare management and made other payments to local Omnicare pharmacies.
In May 2012, the United States, numerous states and Abbott entered into a $1.5 billion global civil and criminal resolution that, among other things, resolved Abbott’s liability under the False Claims Act for alleged kickbacks to nursing home pharmacies, including Omnicare and PharMerica Corp. In October 2015, PharMerica agreed to pay $9.25 million to the United States and numerous states to resolve civil liability under the False Claims Act for the alleged kickbacks from Abbott. The settlement announced today resolves Omnicare’s role in that alleged kickback scheme.
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Approximately $20.3 million of the settlement will go to the United States, while $7.8 million has been allocated to cover Medicaid program claims by states that elect to participate in the settlement. The Medicaid program is jointly funded by the federal and state governments.
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The Government announced that one of two whistleblowers will receive $3 million of the settlement (a relator’s share of approximately 15% of the federal portion).
Comment: The government’s decision to forego a Corporate Integrity Agreement with Omnicare continues to remain puzzling. The company had been under a series of CIAs from 2006 to 2014, but the OIG-HHS permitted the CIA to lapse in late 2014 even though earlier that year, the company paid $124 million to settle civil allegations that it paid kickbacks to nursing homes to induce them to use the company’s services. Perhaps the OIG has concluded that Omnicare is immune from oversight.
Disclaimer: The Vernia Law Firm previously represented a whistleblower against Omnicare.