A number of recent cases have shown that the drug companies are prepared to pay millions and, sometimes, billions of dollars to settle cases involving prescribing drugs for unapproved uses. These “Qui Tam” matters are brought by individuals who have learned information that is not otherwise available to the Federal Government. New Jersey has a similar “Whistleblower Law” technically referred to as the “False Claims Act“.
Of interest in the recent cases with settlements is the fact that there has been no real action taken against the doctors who may be the worst offenders in prescribing the drugs. According to ProPublica, statistics show that 15 drug and medical device companies have paid $6.5 billion since 2008 to settle accusations of either marketing fraud or payment of kickbacks. In the various suits, approximately 75 doctors were named as being involved but none of the doctors were sanctioned in any way.
Drug maker Eli Lilly pleaded guilty to illegally marketing an anti-psychotic drug “Zyprexa”. Eli Lilly paid $1.4 billion in criminal penalties and settlements in the various civil lawsuits. Interestingly, one doctor, psychiatrist George Jerusalem, prescribed more than $1 million a year worth of Zyprexa. Dr. Jerusalem was a consulting psychiatrist to more than 100 nursing homes and was treating between 3,000 and 5,000 residents. Among other allegations, it was alleged that Eli Lilly had paid Dr. Jerusalem in excess of $50,000.00 in “consulting fees”.
These types of cases point out where a whistleblower might see, and ultimately report, fraud. For example, there have been numerous cases where nurses, doctors or other professionals located in a nursing home see improprieties and/or improper treatment or drug prescribing. Representatives and/or employees of the nursing home may also witness the fraud. Additionally, employees in the doctors’ office or employees of the drug company itself may have information which shows the improprieties.
The New Jersey False Claims Act has provisions similar to the federal statute. New Jersey’s False Claims Act extends the protections to actions involving the State of New Jersey or various authorities. So, by way of example, the conduct, similar to the above, which might occur in a state-owned facility, could be reported in New Jersey.
What is most interesting under the Federal False Claims Act as well as New Jersey’s False Claims Act is the fact that “ordinary citizens” can report the fraud and be entitled to a reward for being a “relator”. If you are an individual privy to such information, contact a qualified New Jersey Whistleblower Attorney.