One of the most important components of the doctor-patient relationship is the ability of a patient to trust the diagnosis and advice of his doctor. Patients deserve to know that any prescription or course of treatment recommended by a physician is offered with the sincere believe that the treatment is in the patient’s best interest. Along these lines, patient care must be free from outside influence, be it that of a large pharmaceutical corporation or anybody else.
Under the False Claims Act (“FCA”), it is considered unlawful for a medical provider to submit an invoice for reimbursement of any medical procedure, product or service that arose as a result of a kickback by a pharmaceutical company. The government endeavors to keep the doctor-patient relationship free from the influence of pharmaceutical companies and will prosecute those who engage in fraud at the expense of patient trust.
Case Against Bostwick Laboratories
In a case settling late this past Summer, Bostwick Laboratories, Inc. agreed to remit $503,668 to the U.S. government to resolve allegations of unlawful influence over medical decisions. A whistleblower lawsuit was filed by a physician who had been approached by Bostwick for participation in a controversial prostate cancer study which, to him, seemed like an illegal and unethical kickback scheme.
In sum, Bostwick paid $100 per patient to physicians who successfully induced their patients to participate in a clinical study entitled “Determination of the Accuracy of PCA3Plus Urine Assay for the Detection of Prostate Cancer.” In order to enroll a patient, the physician had to send a urine sample and a biopsy of the patient’s prostate to the Bostwick Laboratories – effectively rewarding physicians for “steering” their prostate biopsy analysis business to Bostwick as opposed to any other laboratory. The problem with this arrangement is that a physician is influenced to utilize a certain laboratory facility regardless of whether it has a sound reputation in the medical community or would otherwise be the physician’s first choice.
Under the FCA, the U.S. government may intervene in a whistleblower case at its discretion. In the case against Bostwick, the government not only intervened but issued a strong warning that physicians shall not accept “any inducements from laboratories or third parties with contractual relationships with laboratories that are designed to maximize the volume of patients referred….”
In an officia statement,U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch stated, “[d]ecisions involving medical treatment and testing go to the heart of the doctor patient relationship, and must be based on the needs of each patient and possibility of the advancement of science. They cannot and should not be based on illegal payments from laboratories. Our office is committed to stopping such inducements, and returning patient care to the forefront of the doctors’ decisions….”
Come Forward With Information About Kickbacks
Not every kickback arrangement is a blatant display of gifts, vacations and travel for physicians. Some schemes, like that described above, are much more subtle and may not be readily noticeable. However, if you work in the healthcare industry and are aware of apparently unlawful relationships forming between a medical provider and another entity or third-party, a whistleblower lawsuit might be the best option for you. For more information, contact our office today.