AbbVie Agrees to $2.7 Million Settlement for False Claim Act Whistleblower Lawsuit over Humira Prescriptions
Pharmaceutical company AbbVie Inc. has agreed to pay $2.7 million to settle a whistleblower False Claims Act lawsuit, which alleged that the company used unlawful kickbacks to encourage medical providers to prescribe its drug Humira. The settlement comes seven years after whistleblower who worked as a “nurse ambassador” for an AbbVie subcontractor accused the company of using nurse ambassadors to perform administrative tasks that would typically be done by Humira prescribers themselves. As part of the settlement, Suarez will receive $756,000 as a whistleblower reward.
In October 2015, Suarez filed the lawsuit in the Northern District of Illinois, accusing AbbVie of violating the False Claims Act and similar state-level laws in 30 states and the District of Columbia. U.S. District Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer trimmed the lawsuit in November 2020 to include only allegations related to Florida, ruling that Suarez had not provided evidence of nationwide fraud. However, she left the possibility for him to reclaim it in the future. Court records reveal that AbbVie and the U.S. government were engaged in settlement negotiations for some time, with the details of the settlement made public on Tuesday.
AbbVie still faces a separate lawsuit filed by company investors who claim that AbbVie misled them into believing that Humira’s billions of dollars in annual revenue and status as the world’s best-selling drug were a result of legally compliant marketing rather than unlawful kickbacks. Humira is a prescription biologic that treats inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions.
False Claims Act
The federal False Claims Act, enacted over 150 years ago, was the first whistleblower law designed to combat fraud against the government. It was updated in the 1980s to include additional penalties and protections, such as whistleblower rewards of up to 30% of fines paid by fraudulent actors. Claims under the Act are called qui tam actions, which allow whistleblowers to receive a portion of the resulting penalties. Types of fraud covered by the Act include price fixing, bid-rigging, false invoices, and bribery, among others. Penalties range from $5,000 to $10,000, plus three times the amount of fraud or damages. These penalties are adjusted for inflation and can be applied for each act, potentially leading to large recoveries for the government. Whistleblowers can be awarded up to 30% of the recovery, with the largest award to date being $250 million. Most states have also passed their own False Claims Acts, providing protections and rewards for whistleblowers.
2023 False Claim Whistleblower Awards
Federal prosecutors have announced multiple settlements in 2023 for False Claim Act allegations, including:
- $10 million for a non-prosecution agreement with the now bankrupt Stimwave Technologies regarding allegations of a scheme to sell non-functioning medical devices to customers with chronic pain.
- Sherman-Williams agreed to a $1 million settlement over allegations it used the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program improperly by hiding their work on a bridge repainting project, so they could quality for the program intended for small businesses.
- $27 million to settle False Claim Act and Arms Export Control Act claims against 3D Systems Corp., over allegations they did not secure U.S. government authorization prior to exporting military product-designs to countries including China and Taiwan.
- $8.5 million to settle False Claim Act with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center regarding allegations a surgeon was billing for two or three simultaneous surgeries, performing part of each surgery only and leaving patients under anesthesia longer than necessary.
- $2.5 million to settle a whistleblower lawsuit filed by ex-employees of Spacelabs Healthcare regarding allegations of overcharging Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense.
- $215 million to settle CA Attorney General allegations that Centene Corp. reported higher prescription drug costs to Medi-Cal.
- $9 million to settle allegations against multiple home health companies that they billed the United States for non-medical services offered to patients as medical services, including lawn mowing.
- $15 million for The Pill Club to settle allegations it charged Medi-Cal improperly, including charges for in-person counseling that was never provided.
- $19 million for the decade long case based on allegations Laboratory Corp. of American Holdings used kickbacks to healthcare professionals to increase blood draw business.
- $22.8 million to settle allegations International Vitamin Corp. evaded owed duties when importing Chinese sourced nutritional supplements.
- $9.75 million for Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy Synthes to settle allegations they provided free devices to generate business that was billed to federal health care programs, including for international surgeries not eligible for reimbursement.
FALSE CLAIMS ACT LAWYER
Schneider Wallace represents whistleblowers, whether the violation is against the federal government, state government, or a local government. Schedule a consult with our whistleblower law firm for a free and private legal consultation.
To speak with a lawyer with years of experience handling both government whistleblower and contractor fraud cases, contact us at 1-800-689-0024 or firstname.lastname@example.org.