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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Medco to Pay $7.9 Million to Resolve Kickback Allegations

Medco Health Solutions Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of the pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts Holding Company, of Missouri, has agreed to pay the government $7.9 million to settle allegations that it engaged in a kickback scheme in violation of the False Claims Act, the Justice Department announced today.  Medco provides pharmacy benefit management services to clients who receive subsidies under the Medicare Retiree Drug Subsidy program.

“We will continue to pursue pharmacy benefit managers that enter into kickback arrangements with pharmaceutical manufacturers,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “Hidden financial agreements between drug manufacturers and pharmacy benefit managers can improperly influence which drugs are available to patients and the price paid for drugs.”

The settlement resolves allegations that Medco solicited remuneration from AstraZeneca, a pharmaceutical manufacturer, in exchange for identifying Nexium as the “sole and exclusive” proton pump inhibitor on certain of Medco’s prescription drug lists known as formularies.  The United States alleged that Medco received some or all of the remuneration from AstraZeneca in the form of reduced prices on the following AstraZeneca drugs: Prilosec, Toprol XL and Plendil.  The United States contended that this kickback arrangement between Medco and AstraZeneca violated the Federal Anti-Kickback statute, and thereby caused the submission of false or fraudulent claims for Nexium to the Retiree Drug Subsidy Program.  In January 2015, the United States and AstraZeneca reached a $7.9 million settlement to resolve kickback allegations arising out of the same conduct.

“By this agreement we are making important strides in holding pharmacy benefit managers accountable not only in Delaware but nationwide,” said U.S. Attorney Charles M. Oberly III of the District of Delaware.  “I am proud of the tireless work by this office to investigate this case.”

“Pharmacy benefit managers that seek or accept kickbacks will be held accountable for their improper conduct,” said Special Agent in Charge Nick DiGiulio of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG).  “We will continue to crack down on kickback arrangements, which can undermine drug choices for patients and corrode the public’s trust in the health care system.”

This civil settlement resolves a lawsuit filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provision of the False Claims Act, which allows private citizens with knowledge of false claims to bring civil actions on behalf of the government and to share in any recovery.  The lawsuit was filed by former AstraZeneca employees Paul DiMattia and F. Folger Tuggle, whose share of the settlement has not been determined.

The settlement with Medco was the result of a coordinated effort among the Civil Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Delaware and HHS-OIG.

This settlement illustrates the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud and marks another achievement for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced in May 2009 by the Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services.  The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation.  One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act.  Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered a total of more than $24 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $15.3 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.

The False Claims Act lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware and is captioned United States ex rel. DiMattia et al. v. Medco Health Solutions, Inc., No. 13-1285 (D. Del.).  The claims settled by this agreement are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.

Updated May 20, 2015