A whistleblower has earned a $17 million reward for bringing a qui tam action against Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc. under the federal False Claims Act.
The lawsuit was commenced by Robert Heiden, a former sales representative for Boehringer. He alleged that his former employer improperly promoted several drugs for indications that were not FDA approved, made unsubstantiated claims about the efficacy of one of the drugs, and paid kickbacks to health care professionals to induce them to prescribe the drugs.
Under the False Claims Act, an individual whistleblower, called a relator, may commence such a lawsuit on behalf of the U.S. Government. The case is initially filed under seal (i.e., in secret) to give the local U.S. Attorney an opportunity to review the allegations and the relator's evidence. After such a review, the Government may decide to intervene in the case or to allow the relator to pursue the case on its behalf.
In this case, the U.S. Government decided to intervene in the action, which resulted in settlement negotiations and ultimately an agreement by Boehringer to pay $95 million to resolve the allegations. The whistleblower, or qui tam, provisions of the False Claims Act provide that the relator who commenced the action is entitled to a percentage of that recovery. In this case, the relator will be paid more than $17 million.
The drugs at issue in the lawsuit were the stroke-prevention drug Aggrenox, the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) drugs Atrovent and Combivent, and the hypertension drug Micardis. The U.S. Department of Justice Press Release announcing the settlement is available here.
If you have information that a pharmaceutical company is paying kickbacks or promoting its drugs for off-label uses, then you should consult with an experienced lawyer immediately. To schedule a free and confidential consultation by telephone or in person, call my office today at (917) 652-6504 or click here to communicate with me via email.
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