The opioid epidemic has attracted nationwide attention. The Wisconsin Department of Health says that opioid overdoses took more lives than car accidents in 2015. While public officials in Wisconsin and nationwide continue to look for ways to get control over opioid abuse, the Department of Justice recently reached a partial settlement in a whistleblower lawsuit that centered around promoting opioid use. The overall lawsuit remains under seal as other defendants were not part of the recent settlement, according to the DOJ.
DOJ Says That The Drug Company Unfairly Promoted The Strong Opioid
A whistleblower originally filed what is called a “qui tam” lawsuit under the false claims act. The case alleged that Galena Biopharma Inc. created a scheme to encourage doctors to prescribe Abstral, which is a fentanyl-based drug pain reliever. The lawsuit says that Galena paid physicians to attend a so-called “advisory board” meeting that included sales representatives from the drug company. Kickbacks, including a scheme to pay rebates based upon performance, which appears to refer to sales of the drug, are all part of the allegations.
The Drug Company Was Not The Only Defendant In The Lawsuit
The DOJ recently announced that Galena has agreed to settle their part of the lawsuit for $7.55 million. The whistleblower is expected to receive more than $1.2 million for her role in bringing the case forward. The total potential recovery remains unclear as the DOJ says the lawsuit continues against other unidentified entities. The allegations against the remaining defendant remain sealed under normal procedures in False Claims Act lawsuits.
Whistleblower lawsuits, whether involving health care fraud against such programs as Medicare or Medicaid, or allegations against pharmaceutical companies involving schemes to unlawfully increase profits, provide consumers with strong protections. U. S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick for the District of New Jersey says the recent settlement is part of the DOJ’s “ongoing efforts to battle the opioid epidemic on every front.”