False Claims Suit Alleges Omnicare Illegally Promoted Nursing Home Drugs for Kickbacks By Tod Aronovitz | 01/23/15 | 0 Comment

In a False Claims Act complaint recently filed by the United States, Omnicare Inc. is accused of accepting millions of dollars in kickbacks from pharmaceutical manufacturer Abbott Laboratories to illegally promote one of its drugs, the Justice Department announced.

The government filed its complaint in the Western District of Virginia in two consolidated whistleblower lawsuits made under the False Claims Act.  According to whistleblower provisions of this act, the United States may intervene and take over such lawsuits as it has done in this case.

Omnicare is the nation’s largest provider of pharmaceuticals and pharmacy consulting services to nursing homes. Per federal regulations, the services provided by these consultants are intended to ensure that medications are prescribed appropriately, protecting nursing home residents from unnecessary drugs.

The drug at the center of allegations is Depakote, which is an anti-seizure drug approved by the Food & Drug Administration in 1983. According to the suit, the drug has been frequently prescribed to elderly dementia patients residing in nursing homes serviced by Omnicare to control aggression or other behavioral disturbances exhibited in these patients.

The complaint contends that Omnicare solicited and received kickbacks from Abbott in exchange for purchasing and recommending the prescription drug Depakote in Omnicare’s nursing homes. Omnicare’s pharmacists reviewed patient charts on a monthly basis and suggested to physicians what drugs should be prescribed for those patients. The government alleges that Omnicare exerted influence over nursing home physicians to obtain kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies such as Abbott.

Kickbacks that Omnicare received from Abbott were supposedly disguised and described as “grants” and “educational funding” when in fact the true purpose of this funding was to induce Omnicare to recommend Depakote to its nursing home physicians.

A key example brought up in the suit was Omnicare’s Re*View Program. This “health management” and “educational” program was allegedly a means for Omnicare to solicit kickbacks from pharmaceutical manufacturers in exchange for increasing their utilization in nursing home residents. Internal documents supposedly show references to Omnicare’s Re*View program as “one extra script per patient” program, the suit says.

The complaint also accuses Omnicare of entering into agreements that rewarded Omnicare with increasing levels of rebates from Abbott based on the number of nursing home residents serviced and the amount of Depakote prescribed per resident.  The final allegations claim that Abbott funded Omnicare management meetings on Amelia Island, FL, offered sporting event tickets to Omnicare management, and made other payments to local Omnicare pharmacies.

“Elderly nursing home residents suffering from dementia are among our nation’s most vulnerable patient populations, and they depend on the independent judgment of healthcare professionals for their daily care,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce R. Branda for the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “Kickbacks to consulting pharmacists compromise their independence and undermine their role in protecting nursing home residents from the use of unnecessary drugs.”

Abbott has previously been at the center of questionable marketing practices of Depakote in nursing homes. In May 2012, the United States, numerous individual states, and the pharmaceutical company entered into a $1.5 billion landmark global civil and criminal settlement that resolved Abbott’s civil liability under the False Claims Act for paying kickbacks to nursing home pharmacies as well as off-label marketing of Depakote.

The cases are captioned United States ex rel. Spetter v. Abbott Labs., et al., Case No. 10-cv-00006 (W.D. Va.) and United States ex rel. McCoyd v. Abbott Labs., et al., Case No. 07-cv-00081 (W.D. Va.).

How to Report Miami Medicare Fraud

Healthcare professionals or medical billing employees who have knowledge of questionable Medicare billing practices can file a confidential legal claim under the False Claims Act. By acting as a “whistleblower” in what is known as a “qui tam” lawsuit, a private party may collect up to 30 percent of the amount recovered, depending on how the case is prosecuted.

ARONOVITZ LAW: Miami Whistleblower / Qui Tam Law Firm

The Miami Qui Tam law firm of ARONOVITZ LAW routinely works with whistleblowers to document Medicare fraud and other forms of fraud against the government. Contact Miami Whistleblower / Qui Tam lawyer Tod Aronovitz to discuss your case.