At the heart of medical ethics lies the presumption that patients should be able to choose their doctor, course of treatment, and medical care without outside influence by self-interested parties. This ethic guides an important policy prohibiting unlawful kickbacks between doctors and pharmaceutical companies, which is enforced under the False Claims Act.
In keeping with the notion that patients have the right to freely choose their course of treatment, anti-kickback laws forbid doctors and pharmaceutical companies from entering into undisclosed agreements, wherein a physician agrees to use or promote a company’s product in exchange for financial gain. Under a kickback scheme, a patient is encouraged to use a product or pursue treatment, not because the product is necessarily in the patient’s best interests, but because the doctor stands to gain from the transaction.
CareFusion Agrees to Pay $40 Million to Settle Anti-Kickback Fraud Claims
CareFusion is a California-based medical products company that makes, among other things, a product known as ChloraPrep. This product is used for the pre-treatment of skin prior to a surgical incision and is designed to protect a patient from the introduction of harmful bacteria or other threats.
According to a lawsuit filed by whistleblower Dr. Cynthia Kirk, a former vice president of regulatory affairs for the defendant’s Infection Prevention Business Unit, CareFusion paid over $11 million to a physician serving as the co-chair of the Safe Practices Committee for the National Quality Forum. In this role, the physician was responsible for reviewing, recommending, and endorsing standards and performance measures within the healthcare industry. Not surprisingly, the doctor consistently recommended and endorsed ChrloraPrep as the safest pre-surgical preparatory product on the market, likely inducing thousands of other physicians and hospitals to rely on this advice.
The U.S. government intervened in this case and recently arrived at a settlement with CareFusion, which covered claims of unlawful kickbacks raised by several states’ attorneys general. In a statement by Kansas U.S. District Attorney, “Healthcare fraud drives up the cost of healthcare and jeopardizes the strength of our healthcare system….[t]his case demonstrates that our fight against healthcare fraud is helping to protect all Americans, including the elderly, the disabled, and the most vulnerable among us.”
The chairman of CareFusion punctuated the conclusion of the matter by stating, “We are pleased to resolve this matter and are confident we have strong practices, processes, and controls in place….[CareFusion has made] significant investments during the past several years to improve our quality and compliance systems, including our sales and marketing practices.”
If you are aware of possible unlawful kickbacks in your place of employment, do not be afraid to contact a whistleblower attorney right away. Kickbacks are not always blatant, and may not necessarily involve large cash payments. Sometimes, a kickback comes in the form of a mutual exchange of referrals or paid opportunities to participate in speaking engagements. If the situation seems dishonest, contact us right away.