The Association for Financial Professionals features Eric L. Young and James McEldrew analysis of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that historic Sarbanes Oxley legislation empowers financial professionals to assert their professional ethics and standards questioning the legality of bills and invoices on the “reasonable belief” that their employers are engaging in fraudulent activities in the April issue of Payments.
The United States Department of Justice has announced that it is intervening in a qui tam whistleblower suit under the False Claims Act accusing Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation of fraudulently billing Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, and other federal and state-funded healthcare programs by Novartis’ Cardiovascular Diseases Division through a wide array of kickback schemes involving drugs including Lotrel, Valturna, and Starlix.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara announced the intervention in court documents that were unsealed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York on April 26, 2013.
“Novartis’ pervasive business practices to fraudulently market numerous drugs including Lotrel, Valturna, Starlix, Tekturna, Diovan, and Exforge, cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars” said Eric L. Young, Esquire, Young Law Group, who, with James E. Miller, Esquire, of Shepherd, Finkelman, Miller, and Shah, LLP, and John Minnino, Esquire, of Minnino Law Offices, is representing the whistleblower, former Novartis sales representative, Oswald Bilotta.
“Novartis’ payment of kickbacks to increase market share is yet another example of abuse in the pharmaceutical industry that contributes to skyrocketing medical costs,” said James E. Miller, Esquire, of Shepherd, Finkelman, Miller, and Shah, LLP.
The whistleblower complaint alleges that Novartis committed massive taxpayer fraud by marketing drugs Lotrel, Valturna, Starlix, Tekturna, Diovan and Exforge through a widespread “pay to play” scheme whereby the company paid off doctors who prescribed its drugs. As detailed in the government’s intervention Complaint, Novartis’ Cardiovascular Division engaged in a number of schemes whereby the company paid kickbacks to doctors to ensure increased prescriptions at the federal government’s expense.
None of this is new for Novartis. In September 2010, the company announced that it would pay approximately $422 million in criminal and civil fines and penalties to resolve claims that it had paid kickbacks to prescribers of Trileptal, Diovan, Zelnorm, Sandostatin, Tekturna, and Exforge, in addition to claims that the company had promoted some of these drugs for unapproved uses. Nonetheless, Novartis continued paying kickbacks and promoting drugs for unapproved uses, the complaint alleges.
After retaining SFMS, Minnino, and YLG, the whistleblower filed a qui tam lawsuit in federal district court in Manhattan on January 5, 2011. The qui tam case was kept under seal, meaning that it was not known to the public, while the government investigated the allegations. “Thanks to courageous people like Mr. Bilotta, perpetrators of fraud are being held to account for fraudulent sales and promotional activities that artificially increases the burden on taxpayers . . . we are confident based upon the evidence presented by Mr. Bilotta and the results of the ensuing government investigation that Novartis will be held to account for its wrongs”, said Mr. Young, a veteran qui tam litigator.
Case citation: U.S. ex rel. Oswald Bilotta v. Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Corp., S.D.N.Y. 11-CV-00071-PGG.
Young Law Group, specializes in representing whistleblowers (“relators”) throughout the United States and internationally in qui tam lawsuits brought under the False Claims Act. The False Claims Act allows private individuals to sue companies that are defrauding the federal government and to recover funds on the government’s behalf. Whistleblowers may be entitled to 15 percent to 30 percent of the civil recoveries that result from the qui tam lawsuit.
SFMS represents clients, including business entities, consumers, individual and institutional investors, fiduciaries, state and other governmental entities, and whistleblowers, in complex litigation and other matters with offices in California, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
John Mininno, Esq. has offices in Collingswood, N.J. with practice areas including False Claims Act litigation.