Over the past decade, whistleblowers have attempted to expand the long-established fraudulent inducement theory of FCA liability into a novel fraud-on-the-FDA theory of FCA liability. DOJ embraced the theory during the Obama administration, but its enthusiasm became muted during the Trump administration. DOJ now appears to have once again revisited its position, and DOJ’s renewed interest in supporting the viability of this theory may further encourage relators to advance these arguments in court, and may even preview DOJ’s willingness to intervene and litigate such a case. In a recent Law360 article entitled DOJ’s Fraud-On-The-FDA Liability Theory is Problematic, Sidley lawyers Jaime Jones, Brenna Jenny, and Krystalyn Weaver discuss the weaknesses in DOJ’s theory of liability, the latest caselaw developments, and how life sciences companies can mitigate enforcement risk.
A copy of the article is available here.
In a recent decision, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals for the second time in two years held that commission-based compensation arrangements with independent contractors cannot be safe harbored and do violate the Anti-Kickback Statute and FCA. See United States ex rel. Nicholson v. Medcom Carolinas, Inc., No. 21-1290 (4th Cir. July 21, 2022).
Recently, a district court in the Southern District of Florida dismissed with prejudice a qui tam complaint premised on the alleged sale of products adulterated and misbranded under the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (“FDCA”). United States ex rel. Crocano v. Trividia Health Inc., No. 22-CV-60160-RAR (S.D. Fla. July 18, 2022). In so doing, the court declined to embrace the arguments asserted in a Statement of Interest filed by DOJ and reiterated that “the False Claims Act is not the proper avenue for holding [companies] accountable” for violations of the FDCA, because “the FDA’s use of its regulatory enforcement powers may be exercised fully to ensure further compliance.”
Over the past decade, relators have attempted to expand the long-established “fraudulent inducement” theory of liability into a novel “fraud-on-the-FDA” theory. The fraudulent inducement theory posits that when a defendant’s fraudulent conduct induces a government entity to enter into a contract with the defendant, the claims for payment submitted under that contract are false. However, the fraud-on-the-FDA theory stretches this causal chain by contending that fraudulent conduct directed at FDA can render false the claims for payment submitted to an entirely different government entity, such as CMS. Courts have been divided as to the viability of this theory (as we have discussed here and here). (more…)
There has been growing variation among courts of appeal over the appropriate pleading standard to apply under Rule 9(b) to the element of presentment, i.e., the requirement that plaintiffs plead with particularity the submission of a false claim to the government for payment. This topic has been the subject of repeated Supreme Court cert petitions (as discussed further here), and the topic has been raised yet again in a cert petition filed late last year in Johnson v. Bethany Hospice and Palliative Care, LLC (No. 21-462) (lower court opinion discussed here). The relator in Bethany Hospice, whose case was dismissed by the Eleventh Circuit for “rely[ing] on mathematical probability to conclude that a defendant surely must have submitted a false claim at some point”, seeks Supreme Court review of this “longstanding circuit split.” (more…)
Recently, a court in the Central District of California unsealed a qui tam complaint against several specialty pharmacies and their private equity fund owners. See United States ex rel. Webster v. BioMatrix Holdings, LLC, 2:18-cv-09333-PSG-PLA (C.D. Cal. Oct. 31, 2018). Relator, a former Vice President for Managed Care at BioMatrix Specialty Pharmacy, alleged that the specialty pharmacy defendants (collectively “BioMatrix”), with the knowledge of their private equity owners, employed a kickback scheme to increase the number and value of prescriptions for hemophilia medications filled through their pharmacies. (more…)
With its latest announcement this week of a criminal crackdown of 21 defendants for their alleged participation in various health care related fraud schemes, DOJ has underscored its commitment to aggressively pursue individuals and companies alleged to have exploited the COVID-19 pandemic. Among these actions are a collection involving alleged billing fraud arising from COVID testing; one set of defendants is alleged to have taken the data from patients seeking COVID tests and submitting bills to the federal healthcare programs for office visits that never occurred, while another set of actions involve obtaining patient samples and then billing for more expensive lab tests. Still others involve defendants alleged to have sold fake COVID vaccination cards. (more…)
Earlier this week, two laboratory testing companies paid $42.25 million to resolve allegations that they violated the California and federal FCAs, as well as the California Insurance Frauds Prevention Act (“CIFPA”), by paying kickbacks to induce physicians to order a specialized lab test for auto-immune and inflammatory diseases. The kickbacks allegedly took the form of inflated processing fees and caps on patient cost-sharing obligations. See United States ex rel. STF, LLC v. Crescendo Bioscience, Inc., No. 16-cv-2043 (N.D. Cal.). DOJ and the State of California declined to intervene, and the laboratory testing companies entered into this settlement with the relator to resolve ongoing litigation. The settlement highlights increasing enforcement risk arising from kickback allegations affecting non-federal healthcare programs, which are not directly subject to the Anti-Kickback Statute or the FCA. (more…)
This week DOJ announced one of the first civil settlements under the FCA involving abuse of the pandemic flexibilities that the Department of Health and Human Services used to authorize broader use of telehealth during the COVID public health emergency. Physician Partners of America (“PPOA”) agreed to pay $24.5 million to resolve allegations that it violated the FCA by billing for medically unnecessary telehealth visits, and by submitting claims for medically unnecessary genetic, psychological, and urine drug tests and claims tainted by violations of the Stark Law. While DOJ has previously engaged in criminal enforcement actions relating to abuse of the telehealth waiver flexibilities, as discussed further here, this case represents an expansion of telehealth enforcement scrutiny to the civil side. (more…)