Justice News

Assistant Attorney General Tony West Speaks at the GlaxoSmithKline Press Conference
Boston, MA
United States
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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Thank you all for being here. My name is Tony West, and I’m the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice. In that capacity, I oversee much of the federal government’s civil litigation across the country, including the Justice Department’s efforts to recapture billions of taxpayers’ dollars lost to fraud, waste, and abuse, including health care fraud.

Every year, health care fraud costs American taxpayers billions of dollars and undermines the integrity of the health care programs on which so many of us depend. The culprits range from fly-by-night operations working in vacant store fronts to some of the nation’s largest companies pursuing sophisticated schemes. From Day One, President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have been focused like a laser beam on tackling health care fraud in all of its many forms – whether it be a doctor who bills Medicare for services that were never rendered; or a hospital that recruits homeless individuals to pose at patients even though they do not need treatment – and then passes the cost of that treatment on to you, the taxpayers; or, as in this case, a pharmaceutical company that puts adulterated drugs on the market, and asks taxpayers to foot the bill.

As Carmen explained, GlaxoSmithKline – or "GSK," for short – and a subsidiary, SB Pharmco, have agreed to pay $750 million – the fourth largest amount ever paid by a pharmaceutical company to the United States – to resolve criminal and civil allegations relating to the manufacturing and sale of certain adulterated drugs made at the company’s now-closed manufacturing facility in Cidra, Puerto Rico.

Whether drugs are contaminated during the manufacturing process, lack the proper mix of ingredients, or are mixed up and put in the wrong bottles, the consequences can be very real. Adulterated drugs undermine the integrity of the FDA’s approval process, can introduce substandard or ineffective drugs on to the market and, in the worst cases, can potentially put patients’ health at risk. They can also lead to many millions of dollars in false claims against federal and state health care programs.

Because, at the end of the day, consumers have the right to rely upon the claims that drug companies make about the products they sell. And that is why, when it comes to the sort of conduct at issue here, we will hold pharmaceutical companies accountable. That’s what we’ve done today with this $750 million resolution.

Today’s joint enforcement action reaffirms that health care fraud is a top priority for Attorney General Eric Holder, the Department of Justice, and for those of us at this podium. Last year, the President established HEAT, the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Task Force, to help the federal government better coordinate the expertise of the Department of Health and Human Services and the law enforcement capabilities of the Department of Justice in the fight against health care fraud.

And these efforts have paid off. Since January 2009, the Civil Division which I head has commenced more health care fraud investigations; secured higher fines, larger judgments and longer sentences; and recovered more taxpayer dollars lost to health care fraud than in any other two-year period – over $4.2 billion in recoveries. That’s nearly $2 billion more than health care fraud recoveries in the two years preceding 2009.

So I’d like to conclude by acknowledging the dedicated public servants who make these successful law enforcement actions possible: the committed attorneys in the Civil Division with whom I have the privilege of working everyday and for whom I have the deepest respect; the United States Attorney of the District of Massachusetts, Carmen Ortiz, and her exceptional office, which has been instrumental to the Department’s efforts to combat health care fraud; and our law enforcement partners gathered here today from HHS, FBI, FDA, DCIS, OIG for Veteran’s Affairs, and the OIG for Office of Personnel Managment for their tireless work. Together, we will continue our mission to protect taxpayers and consumers against fraud in all its forms.

Now, it’s my pleasure to introduce Jay Hodes, the Acting Assistant Inspector General for Investigations for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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