New York Compounding Pharmacy Settles Fraudulent Billing and Kickback Allegations in Whistleblower Lawsuit
Upstate New York pharmaceutical companies FPR Specialty Pharmacy (now defunct) and Mead Square Pharmacy, along with their owners, agreed to pay $426,000 to settle fraudulent claims and kickback allegations brought forth by a whistleblower. According to the U.S. government, the pharmacies submitted fraudulent claims for reimbursement to federal healthcare programs for compounded prescription drugs in violation of the False Claims Act and the Anti-Kickback Statute. The pharmacies allegedly sold prescription drugs to federal healthcare program beneficiaries in states without a license, improperly induced patients to purchase expensive custom compounded medications by waiving all or part of the substantial co-payments required under the federal healthcare programs, and paid sales representatives per-prescription commissions to illegally induce writing more prescriptions.
“The rules governing federal healthcare programs require pharmacies dispensing prescriptions to their members to be licensed with the appropriate state authorities to request reimbursement for the cost of the medications. The pharmacies violated the False Claims Act by dispensing and requesting reimbursement for hundreds of prescriptions of “Focused Pain Relief” cream dispensed to federal healthcare program beneficiaries located in states where the pharmacies were not licensed to operate by the appropriate state authorities, and by failing to disclose that they were not licensed. The Pharmacies also violated the False Claims Act by billing federal healthcare programs for prescriptions dispensed in states where they had obtained their state licenses under false pretenses, including by failing to inform state authorities that they had previously dispensed drugs in the states without a license and by failing to disclose” one of the pharmacy owners’ “criminal history on pharmacy license applications.”
Additionally, the pharmacies violated the Anti-Kickback Statute by engaging in two separate illegal practices, according to the government. First, the pharmacies regularly charged federal healthcare program beneficiaries co-payments substantially below program requirements (which often exceeded $100) to induce them to purchase its pain cream, “Focused Pain Relief,” for which the federal healthcare programs paid hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars each. Second, the Pharmacies often paid illegal kickbacks to their sales representatives by giving sales commissions for the number of prescriptions written by the physicians the sales reps marketed.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “Pharmacies, like other participants in the healthcare industry, must follow the rules. The defendants here brazenly flouted basic rules on licensing and kickbacks to line their pockets with dollars from federal healthcare programs. That is a prescription for intervention by my office and our partners.”
Similar to this case, there have been many instances in which whistleblowers exposed company fraud against the Medicare system.