It is well-known that pharmaceutical companies often provide payments for consulting and promotional speaking to doctors likely to use or prescribe the company’s devices or medications. Some critics of the practice consider the payments to be a form of bribery, while others defend the practice as a way for physicians to become familiar with products that can benefit patients.
Pharmaceutical giant Allergan PLC recently settled a whistleblower lawsuit for $13 million. The lawsuit was filed by two ophthalmologists who accused the company of paying physicians for speaking engagements and consulting as a way to induce them to prescribe Allergan products.
The ophthalmologists said Allergan hoped to use the fees and free practice-group management advice and human-resources assistance to entice physicians to prescribe the company’s pricey eye-care drugs Restasis and Acular LS, among others.
The $13 million settlement will be divided among the two doctors, the federal government and the 19 states that joined in the False Claims Act litigation. The two ophthalmologists will receive 30 percent of the settlement, or $3.9 million.
The physicians’ attorney said the pair of doctors (who happen to be a father and daughter) had “the integrity and courage to come forward. Their efforts saved American taxpayers many millions of dollars.”
Allergan declined to issue a statement regarding the settlement.
It is not easy to “blow the whistle” on illegal practices. For those willing to step forward, do the right thing and stop fraud involving federal funds for health care and other services, the first step in the process is to have a conversation with an attorney experienced in False Claims Act litigation.