December 12, 2014 — A federal anti-kickback statute makes it a crime for a medical device maker to pay doctors to use the company’s medical devices in procedures that are reimbursed by federal healthcare programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Since the Anti-Kickback Statute was amended in 2010, violations of this statute automatically violate the federal False Claims Act. When medical device manufacturers make improper payments to doctors, a physician’s judgment about a patient’s health care can be motivated more by the doctor’s financial gain than the patient’s best interests. The qui tam language of the Act gives health care workers and others who discover illegal kickback scams a way to bring a whistleblower lawsuit on behalf of the government. Informants keep a share of the government’s financial recovery.
False Claims Act Lawsuit Alleged That Medical Device Maker Violated Anti-Kickback Statute By Paying Off Physicians To Use Its Products
Biotronik Inc., the maker of defibrillators, pacemakers and cardiac resynchronization therapy devices, has settled a False Claims Act lawsuit for $4.9 million. The Oregon medical device maker reportedly paid kickbacks to physicians to encourage them to use devices manufactured by Biotronik rather than a competitor.
A former employee with the company, Brian Sant, filed a whistleblower lawsuit in accordance with the qui tam language contained in the False Claims Act. In the lawsuit filed in California, Sant alleged that Biotronik violated the anti-kickback statute by paying incentives to Arizona and Nevada cardiologists and electrophysiologists as an inducement to continue using Biotronik medical devices, or to switch to the company’s devices. The incentives came in the form of inflated compensation for serving as a member on a physician advisory board as well as multiple dinners at fine dining establishments. By paying the kickbacks, Biotronik caused a number of healthcare facilities to file false claims with Medicare and Medicaid in connection with implants of Biotronik pacemakers and other devices.
After Sant filed the whistleblower lawsuit, the United States decided to intervene and take control of prosecuting the case. For his share of the federal government’s settlement, Sant will receive around $840,000.
False Claims Act Lawsuits Target Abuse By Medical Providers
While Waters & Kraus is not handling this particular case involving Medicare and Medicaid fraud, we are representing whistleblowers in similar lawsuits. If you have comparable claims against a different medical device maker or medical provider, email us or call our qui tam attorneys at 855.784.0268 to learn more about our practice and how we can work together to notify the government about fraud and abuse. Our qui tam lawyers, like George Tankard and Anne Izzo in the firm’s Maryland office, are committed to advancing and protecting informants’ interests in whistleblower lawsuits.