North Carolina medical device company pays $6 million to settle whistleblower's False Claims allegations

by Ben Vernia | July 9th, 2013

On July 3, the Department of Justice announced that Trans1, a manufacturer of spinal surgical devices, will pay $6 million to settle claims that it paid kickbacks to physicians and promoted its devices outside of FDA-approved indications (“off-label” uses). According to the Department’s press release:

Medical device manufacturer TranS1 Inc., now known as Baxano Surgical Inc., has agreed to pay the United States $6 million to resolve allegations under the False Claims Act that the company caused health care providers to submit false claims to Medicare and other federal health care programs for minimally-invasive spine surgeries, the Justice Department announced today.
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The United States alleged that TranS1 knowingly caused health care providers to submit claims with incorrect diagnosis or procedure codes for minimally-invasive spine fusion surgeries using Trans1’s AxiaLIF System. That device was developed as alternative to invasive spine fusion surgeries. The United States alleges that TranS1 improperly counseled physicians and hospitals to bill for the AxiaLIF System by using incorrect and inaccurate codes intended for more invasive spine fusion surgeries. The United States alleged that, as a result, health care providers received greater reimbursement than they were entitled to for performing the minimally-invasive AxiaLIF procedures.

The United States further alleged that TranS1 knowingly paid illegal remuneration to certain physicians for participating in speaker programs and consultant meetings intended to induce them to use TranS1 products, in violation of the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute, 42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7b(b), and thereby caused false claims to be submitted to federal health care programs. The Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits offering or paying remuneration to induce referrals of items or services covered by federally-funded programs and is intended to ensure that a physician’s medical judgments are not compromised by improper financial incentives and are based solely on the best interests of the patient.

In addition, the United States alleged that TranS1 promoted the sale and use of its AxiaLIF System for uses that were not approved or cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, including use in certain procedures to treat complex spine deformity, and which were thus not covered by federal health care programs.

The whistleblower will receive $1,020,000 of the settlement (a 17% relator’s share).

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