Amerisource has agreed to pay $625 million to resolve fraud allegations raised by three whistleblower lawsuits. Omni Healthcare Inc., an oncology practice, and two pharmacy workers, Daniel Sypula and Kelly Hodge sued the pharmaceutical company alleging that they had contaminated and illegally labeled drugs, thus putting patients lives’ at risk, among other violations.
The Department of Justice joined the lawsuit after a preliminary investigation, when it found evidence that Amerisource had not only mishandled and inappropriately labeled drugs, but also bribed medical professionals, and falsified patient identities. According to the DOJ, the misconduct had been going on for 13 years. Amerisource is no stranger to large settlements in connection with misbranded drugs. Last year, it paid $260 million in fines and forfeitures after a similar case ended in an unfavorable verdict for the wholesale drug distributor.
Between 2001 and 2014, the DOJ claims, the now defunct and Amerisource-controlled Medical Initiatives pharmacy distributed drugs that had been transferred into prefilled syringes in an unsterile environment. The drugs, including Aloxi, Procrit, and Neupogen, are commonly used by cancer patients. The scheme allegedly led to profits exceeding $100 million.
Presumably, because Amerisource was well aware the practice was unlawful, they did not mention anything about its dealings with prefilled syringes in any of the relevant internal documentation. Government investigators also found that prefilled syringe prescriptions were often written out to bogus patients.
Amerisource also bribed doctors to buy the drugs they distributed, the DOJ said, for example, by offering them pharmacy credits that were anonymous and improperly invoiced.
"We have zero tolerance for big corporations that skirt federal and state laws to boost their profits at the expense of vulnerable individuals," New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood said in a press release announcing the recent settlement.
Fraud involving unsafe and illegal prescription drugs is currently on the rise in the U.S. Pharmaceutical companies must be held accountable for these unlawful practices, and it is essential for people with insider information about wrongdoing to step forward.
The False Claims Act and other similar legislation allow whistleblowers to file a lawsuit against fraudsters and remain anonymous through the initial steps of the investigation process, while also protecting them from retaliation. Tipsters can then receive between 15 and 30 percent of any monetary recoveries.
The Pharmaceutical Integrity Coalition (PIC) is an independent Advocacy Group, with no ties to the pharmaceutical industry. Our focus is on health and healing. Connect with us online or call us at 202-780-9957.