Spinal device maker pays $13.5 million to settle qui tam suit

by bvernia | July 31st, 2015

On July 30, the Department of Justice announced that San Diego-based spinal device manufacturer NuVasive, Inc., had agreed to pay $13.5 million to settle civil claims, originally brought by a former employee turned whistleblower, that the company promoted its spinal products for unapproved surgical uses. According to DOJ’s press release.

California-based medical device manufacturer NuVasive Inc. has agreed to pay the United States $13.5 million to resolve allegations that the company caused health care providers to submit false claims to Medicare and other federal health care programs for spine surgeries by marketing the company’s CoRoent System for surgical uses that were not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Justice Department announced today.  The settlement further resolves allegations that NuVasive caused false claims by paying kickbacks to induce physicians to use the company’s CoRoent System.

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The United States alleged that between 2008 and 2013, NuVasive promoted the use of the CoRoent System for surgical uses that were not approved or cleared by the FDA, including for use in treating two complex spine deformities, severe scoliosis and severe spondylolisthesis.  As a result of this conduct, the United States alleged that NuVasive caused physicians and hospitals to submit false claims to federal health care programs for certain spine surgeries that were not eligible for reimbursement.

The settlement agreement also resolves allegations that NuVasive knowingly offered and paid illegal remuneration to certain physicians to induce them to use the CoRoent System in spine fusion surgeries, in violation of the federal Anti-Kickback Statute.  The illegal remuneration consisted of promotional speaker fees, honoraria and expenses relating to physicians’ attendance at events sponsored by a group known as the Society of Lateral Access Surgery (SOLAS).  SOLAS was allegedly created, funded and operated solely by NuVasive, despite its outward appearance of independence.

The company stated on its website that it was not required to enter into a Corporate Integrity Agreement with OIG-HHS.

The government announced that the whistleblower will receive approximately $2.2 million (a 16.3% relator’s share).

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