US intervenes in False Claims Act cases of whistleblowers against opioid-selling Insys
Five cases brought up by whistleblowers were consolidated and unsealed early this month as the United States intervened in the False Claims Act (FCA) cases against Insys Therapeutics, Inc.
The cases allege illegal marketing tactics related to Subsys, a sublingual spray form of fentanyl, a highly addictive opioid painkiller. Subsys was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2012 for persistent breakthrough pain among adult cancer patients who are already receiving but are tolerant to around-the-clock opioid therapy.
According to the five “whistleblower” lawsuits, the Arizona-based Insys Therapeutics, Inc. paid illegal kickbacks and defrauded federal health programs in selling Subsys.
Opioid lawsuits are highly prioritized by this administration as the epidemic has reached epic proportions and the government seeks ways to combat addiction. Opioid Medicare Fraud or Opioid Medicaid Fraud allegations will trigger a swift reaction from the government particularly if programs meant to benefit injured people are exploited solely for economic gain and create a cycle of dependence.
Insys allegedly paid kickbacks to induce physicians and nurse practitioners to prescribe Subsys for their patients. The United States said in the complaint that these kickbacks took the form of sham speaker fees to physicians, jobs for the prescribers’ relatives and friends, and lavish meals and entertainment.
The United States also alleges that Insys improperly pushed physicians to prescribe Subsys for patients who did not have cancer. The government alleged that even the Insys employees lied to insurers about patients’ diagnoses to avail of reimbursements on prescriptions meant for Medicare and TRICARE beneficiaries.
In a statement, United States Attorney Nicola T. Hanna explained that the government’s intervention in the whistleblower lawsuits is just one among their efforts to fight the opioid crisis. The government believes that the illegal marketing activities such as the modes exposed in these whistleblowers’ lawsuits help fuel the opioid crisis.
Whistleblowers can file lawsuits such as these on behalf of the United States if they see that a party has submitted false claims for government funds. This is stated in the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act, which also gives the whistleblowers a share in any recovered funds.
The United States has the right to intervene and take over responsibility for litigating such cases. In this complaint against Insys, for example, the United States intervened since last month.
“Insys allegedly bribed doctors who are more concerned with profits than patients,” said Christian J. Schrank, Special Agent in Charge for the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Encouraging the inappropriate use of this too-often deadly opioid is intolerable enough, but the abuse is compounded when taxpayers are forced to pick up the bill,” he added.
As of this writing, the above are still allegations. Insys’ liability has not yet been determined. Meanwhile, the United States is also separately pursuing a number of criminal cases against Insys employees and Subsys prescribers.
The following are the whistleblowers’ lawsuits consolidated last week in Los Angeles and entered into by the United States government: United States, et al., ex rel. Guzman v. Insys Therapeutics, Inc., et al., 13-cv-5861; United States ex rel. Andersson v. Insys Therapeutics, Inc., 14-cv-9179; United States ex rel. John Doe and ABC, LLC v. Insys Therapeutics, Inc., et al., 14-cv-3488; United States ex rel. Erickson and Lueken v. Insys Therapeutics, Inc., 16-cv-2956; and United States ex rel. Jane Doe, et al. v. Insys Therapeutics, et al., 16-cv-7937. #
If you know of similar unhealthy arrangements that lead also to defrauding Medicare, Tricare or any other government fraud, call our whistleblower law firm toll free (877) 561-0000.