Pa. to share in multi-million dollar False Claims Act Aranesp settlement

By Jon Campisi | Mar 5, 2014

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced this week that

the commonwealth stands to receive nearly $130,000 as part of a national, multi-state settlement involving kickback allegations dealing with the drug Aranesp.

Kane’s office, along with the federal government and a handful of other states, claimed that for nearly two years between 2003 and 2005, Ohio-based Omnicare Inc., a long-term care pharmacy, solicited and received kickbacks from Amgen Inc. in exchange for influencing healthcare providers’ selection and utilization of Aranesp with long-term care settings, and for implementing “switching” programs designed to identify those taking a competing drug and instead put them on Aranesp.

Aranesp is a medication designed to treat patients with anemia due to chronic kidney disease.

The supposed kickbacks, the prosecutor’s office stated, included discounts, market-share rebates, grants, honoraria, speaker fees, consulting services, dinners and travel or fees for the purchase of data.

Pennsylvania, the other states and the federal government allege that as a result of the kickback scheme, Omnicare knowingly caused false and/or fraudulent claims for Aranesp to be submitted to  Medicaid programs.

Kane’s office said that the commonwealth was represented by a national settlement team comprised of state attorneys and analysts from New York, Indiana and North Carolina who worked through the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units.

In all, Omnicare agreed to pay out $4.19 million to settle the allegations that it violated the federal False Claims Act through the alleged kickback scheme.

The case arose from a qui tam, or whistleblower complaint, filed by Frank Kurnik, a long time employee of Amgen, according to LexisNexis.

Kurnik will reportedly receive $397,925 from the settlement.

The original complaint, which had been filed at the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, alleged violations by Amgen, as well as Omnicare, PharMerica and Kindred Healthcare, according to LexisNexis.

The case is reportedly still moving forward against PharMerica and Kindred.

“The allegations underlying the claims that were resolved with Omnicare are yet another reminder of how medical decisions impacting vulnerable patient populations are being made at a corporate level for monetary as opposed to medical reasons,” Reuben Guttman, a partner with Grant & Eisenhofer who represented Kurnik, was quoted as saying in the LexisNexis article.

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