When wrongdoing takes place in healthcare, it doesn’t just cost money. The health and safety of innocent lives may be at risk when healthcare protocol isn’t followed or resources are incorrectly allocated.
That’s why it is of the utmost importance that all healthcare fraud is reported to the proper authorities as soon as possible. While this can be an unnerving process for potential whistleblowers, shining a light on injustice is worth it when wrongdoers are held accountable for their actions.
To demonstrate the potential outcome of stepping forward and doing the right thing, here are some of the largest whistleblower cases in healthcare in the past decade:
Johnson & Johnson
In 2013, global healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay more than $2.2 billion to resolve criminal and civil investigations. The fraud surrounded the prescription drugs Risperdal, Invega, and Natrecor. Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries were promoting the drugs for uses not approved by the FDA and paying kickbacks to physicians and long-term care pharmacy providers.
The complaint goes on further to state that Johnson & Johnson was aware that Risperdal posed a health risk for the elderly, but they downplayed these risks to market the drug as safe. They also marketed the drug to children with mental disabilities, despite the drug being dangerous for children. These are just two examples, there were other cited incidents of promoting their drugs for off-label or dangerous uses.
Johnson & Johnson was also found to have paid speaker fees to doctors to influence them to write prescriptions for Risperdal. Additionally, they paid kickbacks to Omnicare Inc. in order to promote the use of Risperdal for elderly dementia patients in nursing homes.
As a result, Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries paid $485 million in criminal fines and forfeiture and civil settlements with the federal government and five participating states totaling $1.72 billion. The whistleblowers in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania received $112 million, the whistleblowers in the District of Massachusetts received $27.7 million, and the whistleblower in the Northern District of California received $28 million.
In the same year, Abbott Laboratories was ordered to pay $5.475 million for several violations of the False Claims Act and other federal laws and regulations. The settlement brought about by whistleblowers coming forward covered fraud that took place over the span of five years.
During that time, Abbott Laboratories allegedly offered physicians paid teaching assignments, consulting arrangements, speaking engagements, and scholarship grants to encourage them to get the hospitals they work with to purchase Abbott’s carotid, biliary, and peripheral vascular products. These kickbacks resulted in violations of the False Claims Act since Medicare paid the claims submitted for these devices since the purchase decision was driven by financial inducements.
This settlement was the result of a comprehensive investigation kicked off by a whistleblower complaint who received financial compensation for their efforts.
Reckitt Benckiser Group
In 2019 Reckitt Benckiser Group (RB Group) was the center of the largest recovery case concerning an opioid drug in United States history. The settlement had RB Group paying $1.4 billion to resolve criminal and civil liabilities around their drug Suboxone.
Suboxone is approved for use by recovering opioid addicts to help treat withdrawal symptoms. However, the active ingredient (buprenorphine) is a powerful and addictive opioid. The RB Group and its subsidiary at the time, Indivior, promoted Suboxone to physicians, pharmacists, Medicaid administrators and others as a safer and less-abusable drug, even though those claims were never factually established.
Whistleblowers played a key role in working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch to hold the RB Group accountable for their role in the opioid crisis.
In each of these cases, not only was the injustice exposed and corrected, but the whistleblowers who came forward were given a substantial award. Additionally, healthcare organizations were held accountable for their wrong decisions and will act with integrity moving forward.
But whistleblowers can’t enact change alone. They need the right team of legal professionals on their side to ensure confidentiality, follow proper procedures, and help them secure a reward whenever possible. If you are ready to take the first step in shining a light on injustice but need expert guidance, contact us today for a confidential consultation.