Investigations and Enforcement

In a major public move that has been long-awaited by proponents of evidence-based stem cell science, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb issued a lengthy statement on August 28, 2017 “on the FDA’s new policy steps and enforcement efforts to ensure proper oversight of stem cell therapies and regenerative medicine.” Continue Reading FDA Commissioner Announces Stem Cell Enforcement Shift, Plans to Develop Comprehensive Regenerative Medicine Policies

Last week, Mintz Levin’s Health Care Enforcement Defense Group published a new Qui Tam Update, which analyzes 21 health care-related False Claims Act qui tam cases unsealed in May 2017, and the findings include:

  • long delays in unsealing remain the norm;
  • relators overwhelmingly consisted of current and former employees (and physicians); and
  • the most common alleged violation was billing fraud (which was claimed in two-thirds of the 21 unsealed cases).

Also of note in this Update:

  • The targeted entities in these 21 cases included outpatient medical and psychological providers, laboratory testing companies, inpatient hospitals, and home health care providers.
  • Of the 21 cases, the government intervened, in whole or in part, in seven cases and declined to intervene in 10.  (Intervention status could not be determined from the docket in four cases.)
  • The cases were filed in 17 different courts (including the Central District of California, the District of South Carolina, the Eastern District of Michigan, and the Northern District of California).

This Update provides in-depth analysis of three of the unsealed cases, which involve allegations regarding (1) “up coding” by a hospital that allegedly billed routine transport as emergency transport, which was reimbursed at a higher rate; (2) billing for medically unnecessary tests that purported to identify susceptibility to opioid addiction and engaging in a kickback scheme; and (3) processing prior authorization requests for MCOs using automated procedures to expedite processing and circumvent medical necessity determinations, resulting in submission of false claims.

Continuing its annual tradition, the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) announced last week the largest ever health care fraud enforcement action by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force.  As part of the national health care fraud takedown, the government charged 412 defendants with approximately $1.3 billion in alleged fraud. In addition to these charges, HHS Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) is in the process of excluding 295 health care providers from participating in federal health care programs.

Continue Reading DOJ and OIG Announce Largest Ever National Health Care Fraud Takedown; Focus on Opioids

Whistleblowers remain a steady source of False Claim Act (FCA) suits against health care and life science companies each year.  Join our upcoming webinar – “Qui Tam Relators: What You Need to Know” on July 12 at 1pm ET. Colleagues in our Health Care Enforcement Defense Practice Group will help companies better understand how to deal with FCA cases, which result in billions of dollars of recovery for the government each year.  Hope Foster, Larry Freedman, Karen Lovitch and Ellyn Sternfield will share insights to the relator process, help companies understand how to react if it is named in a whistleblower suit, and provide tips for how to prevent them.

Register now!

Last week, in a case being watched locally and nationally, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) ruled that local government approval is not required for the operation of a private needle exchange program and that the Town of Barnstable cannot bar such a program from operating.  The ruling confirms that private needle exchange programs — an important tool in combating the spread of HIV and hepatitis C associated with injection drug use — can continue in Massachusetts as the Commonwealth copes with an ongoing opioid epidemic.   My Mintz Levin colleagues, Andrew DeVoogd and Tiffany Knapp, and I drafted an amici curiae brief in the case in support of the plaintiff’s position on behalf of approximately thirty public health organizations, healthcare providers, and payors.  Continue Reading Private Needle Exchange Programs Do Not Require Local Approval: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Weighs In

Earlier this week, my colleagues Bruce Sokler, Robert Kidwell, Dionne Lomax, and Farrah Short published an alert about the federal district court for the Eastern District of Michigan’s recent decision to deny both the government’s and defendant hospital’s respective motions for summary judgment in a suit filed by the Department of Justice and the Michigan Attorney General in 2015 against W.A. Foote Memorial Hospital, d/b/a Allegiance Health (“Allegiance”), Hillsdale Community Health Center (“HCHC”), Community Health Center of Branch County (“Branch”), and ProMedica Health System, Inc. (“ProMedica”).  In this case, the government alleged that HCHC orchestrated agreements among the hospitals not to advertise or otherwise market in each other’s territories for competing health care services in violation of the Sherman Act.  (You can read Dionne’s previous alert on the Allegiance complaint here.)  HCHC, Branch and ProMedica have each settled, leaving Allegiance as the sole defendant. Continue Reading Antitrust Suit Against Michigan Hospital Moves Forward After Federal District Court Denies Both Sides’ Motions for Summary Judgment

Earlier this month, the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services (“OIG”) published its Semiannual Report to Congress covering the period from October 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017.  The report describes OIG’s work and accomplishments during the 6-month reporting period. Like other OIG reports, including the annual OIG Work Plan, the report gives a good indication of priority areas for OIG and can help guide compliance priorities for providers.  Below are some highlights of the report in the following focus areas: Continue Reading OIG Publishes Semiannual Report to Congress

The latest installment in the ongoing saga over EpiPen Medicaid Drug Rebates came on May 31, 2017, when Senator Charles Grassley issued a press release stating that between 2006-2016 taxpayers may have overpaid for EpiPen by as much as $1.27 billion, “far more” than the announced-but-never-confirmed or finalized $465 million DOJ settlement with Mylan.

To understand what the latest news means in the ongoing saga over EpiPen Medicaid Drug Rebates, it is important to understand how we got here.   And why at the end of the day, the information Senator Grassley included in the May 31, 2016 release may be less important than the information he hinted at but omitted from the release. Continue Reading The Latest in the Epipen Medicaid Drug Rebate Saga – Where Are We Now?

On May 17, 2017 the American Bar Association convened its 27th National Institute on Health Care Fraud.  I have attended many of the past annual meetings, and always enjoy the presentations and the opportunity to network with colleagues from all sides of the aisle.  And I always come away with a few nuggets to share with those who did not attend.

Here are my seven top takeaways from this year’s Institute. Continue Reading Seven Takeaways from the ABA National Institute On Health Care Fraud

Patient assistance programs have been a staple within the health care industry for over a decade.  These programs, operated by 503(c)(3) charities, may receive funding from pharmaceutical manufacturers or other providers to offer assistance to low-income patients in affording their medications, copayments, deductibles, premiums, or other related services.   The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and the Centers of Medicare & Medicare Services (CMS) have acknowledged the role of provider- and manufacturer-supported charitable premium assistance and have established parameters for these charities to operate in compliance with the Anti-Kickback Statute.

Over the last two years, however, government scrutiny and enforcement related to charitable patient assistance programs has increased.   During this time, nearly a dozen pharmaceutical manufacturers and providers have publicly disclosed receipt of government subpoenas investigating their contributions to patient assistance charities.

These new investigations raise a number of questions when it comes to structuring relationships with patient assistance programs.  On May 16th, we will be holding a webinar to review these current investigations and outline what providers, payors, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), and pharmacies working with manufacturers and patient assistance programs need to know in light of these investigations.

We hope you join us!  For more information and to register for this webinar, please click here.