[This article first appeared on Cafepharma, written by Joseph Gentile.]
With the passage of sweeping legislation that will pump hundreds of billions (possibly over a trillion+) dollars into the economy to combat the Coronavirus and mitigate its effect, the stage has been set for rampant fraud. And there’s no doubt that the ensuing attempts at fraud will be on the same scale as the crisis itself—massive. Whistleblowers are needed, now more than ever, to ensure that precious government dollars go towards stopping the harmful effects of the virus and not to line the pockets of fraudsters.
The False Claims Act is the government’s primary tool in combating fraud. It was passed during the Civil War to address the fraudulent sale of decrepit horses, ill mules and faulty rifles to the Union Army (which not only defrauded the government but endangered soldier’s lives). The FCA has since grown to encompass protecting all government dollars, including healthcare spending such as Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare.
The FCA has recovered billions in fraudulent payments made by government healthcare programs and was most recently used in the government’s historic $1.4 billion recovery from Reckitt Benckiser Group involving the marketing of Reckitt’s opioid addiction treatment drug Suboxone. We were involved in that case and represented one of the whistleblowers who outed the wrongdoing. For their efforts, the whistleblowers were awarded over a $100 million dollars. You can read about that on Cafepharma by clicking here.
In light of this, we have written to Attorney General Barr urging him to take pre-emptive action and launch an initiative aimed at putting fraudsters on notice that the government’s new Coronavirus programs will be monitored and any wrongdoing prosecuted. Equally important, is the message such an announcement would send to healthcare and pharma industry insiders, encouraging them to stay vigilant and to blow the whistle on any wrongdoing. A copy of our letter can be viewed on our website and by clicking here:
While blowing the whistle may not be easy, the FCA encourages it by offering whistleblowers up to 30% of the recovery. And because many FCA healthcare cases are large by nature, the FCA’s financial rewards to whistleblowers have been historically large as well.
Potential frauds affecting the healthcare industry, especially as the government’s Coronavirus programs take effect, includes: selling defective medical equipment, using improper billing codes, charging for tests or procedures that were either unnecessary or did not occur, or improperly promoting or selling pharmaceuticals.
We hope the Attorney General makes good use of the FCA to help curb the inevitable fraud in connection with the Coronavirus and we urge healthcare industry insiders to do all they can to ensure that lives are saved and tax dollars are not wasted.