Articles Tagged with “Anti-Kickback Statute”

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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.

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On September 4, 2011, the Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) issued an unfavorable advisory opinion (Advisory Opinion No. 12-11), which addressed an ambulance supplier’s proposed agreement with a municipality to waive cost-sharing amounts for emergency medical services (“EMS”). The requestor of the opinion, a for-profit provider of basic life support ambulance services (“BLS Supplier”), proposed to provide part-time EMS services for a municipality that currently enlists volunteer first aid squads as its majority provider of ambulance services. These volunteer providers generally do not charge residents cost-sharing amounts for the services rendered. In instances where volunteer squads are incapable of responding to emergency calls, other ambulance suppliers, such as BLS Supplier, may provide the services. Some of these instances are attributable to a volunteer squad’s inability to respond to a particular call, while other situations are due to volunteer squads dispatching in that they are unavailable to cover a service area during certain blocks of time.

The proposed arrangement in question involves BLS Supplier entering into agreements with municipalities to provide EMS on a part-time basis for the aforementioned situations. BLS Supplier would use insurance-only billing, in which it would bill Medicare and other third-party payors, but would agree to allow the municipality to waive all cost-sharing amounts.

In issuing its opinion, the OIG determined that the proposed agreement could potentially violate the anti-kickback statute because such waivers of Medicare cost-sharing amounts may constitute prohibited remuneration to induce referrals. The OIG went on to state that municipalities must pay the owed amounts to an independent ambulance supplier if municipalities seek to assume the cost-sharing obligations. The anti-kickback statute is implicated in the proposed arrangement if the municipalities either fail to make the payments to BLS Supplier or fail to permit BLS Supplier to directly bill the residents for the services provided. The OIG emphasized that this is especially true when a municipality enters into an agreement with an independent ambulance provider, such as BLS Supplier, to be its primary supplier of emergency ambulance services during designated time slots, even when only provided part-time. This opinion was distinguished with a prior OIG opinion (Advisory Opinion 99-1) where an independent ambulance supplier merely provided services during isolated and unanticipated circumstances in which the volunteer squad was currently preoccupied with another emergency response.

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The Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published an advisory opinion regarding the Anti-Kickback Statute.  The OIG concluded that the Anti-Kickback Statute would not be implicated where a charitable donation is made in the name of a healthcare provider, so long as the healthcare provider does not receive a tax deduction or other monetary benefit from the donation.

The request of the advisory opinion created an online scheduling website for certain manufacturers (pharmaceutical, medical and diagnostic) to schedule a time to meet with healthcare providers to educate the providers about new products.  Although the manufacturers would pay a fee for the time, healthcare providers would not be paid for their availability, nor would they have to pay to participate.  Rather, healthcare providers would designate a public charity to receive donations “in name of” the healthcare provider.  Restrictions on the donation include, the healthcare provider will not be entitled to a tax deductions or other monetary benefit from the donation and neither the healthcare provider nor a member of the healthcare provider’s family may be closely affiliated with the charity (i.e. serve on the charity’s board or be employed by the charity). 

In its conclusion that this arrangement would not violate the Anti-Kickback Statute, the OIG stressed that the healthcare provider must not receive any form of remuneration, including tax incentives.  In addition, the OIG noted that the requestor had put in place several safeguards to ensure that the program was not abused.

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