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Pharmaceutical Company Violates Anti-Kickback Statute and Pleads Guilty to Fraud

On Friday, May 24, 2013, ISTA Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a pharmaceutical company recently acquired by Bausch & Lomb, Inc., pled guilty to violating the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute and the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA). Under the terms of a civil settlement agreement and ISTA’s guilty plea, the pharmaceutical company has agreed to pay a total of $33.5 million to states and the federal government in fines and fees for conspiracy, misbranding, false submissions to government health care programs, and under whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act.

The Anti-kickback Statute provides criminal penalties for companies who knowingly and willfully offer, pay, solicit or receive remuneration in order to induce business payable by Medicare or Medicaid. According to the Department of Justice’s press release, ISTA violated the Anti-kickback statute by offering doctors illegal inducements, such as wine tastings and golf outings, in order to persuade doctors to prescribe ISTA’s eye drug, Xibrom, to their patients.

Under the FDCA, companies may not introduce drugs into interstate commerce for uses that have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Although the Food and Drug Administration approved ISTA’s eye drug, Xibrom, for pain and inflammation after cataract surgery, ISTA pled guilty to marketing Xibrom for unapproved uses, such as to prevent swelling of the retina and to prevent cystoid macular edema.

As part of ISTA’s plea agreement, its parent company, Bausch & Lomb, agreed to maintain their compliance and ethics program, conduct an annual review of the effectiveness of their program as it relates to ISTA’s Xibrom violations, and annually certify the program’s effectiveness. As a result of ISTA’s violations, the federal government will no longer reimburse ISTA’s drugs under the Medicare and Medicaid program.

This case should encourage providers to ensure their physician arrangements do not violate provisions of the Anti-Kickback Statute, False Claims Act, or any other fraud and abuse laws. Wachler & Associates healthcare attorneys regularly counsel providers in proactively addressing potential kickback violations and defending providers against government allegations. If you need assistance determining how the Stark law and False Claims Act may affect your practice or how to set up a regular review process, please contact an experienced healthcare attorney at Wachler & Associates at 248-544-0888.

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