Recently the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a statement that it had intervened in a False Claims Act (FCA) case against Insys Therapeutics, Inc. and consolidated five separate qui tam cases into one case, U.S. ex rel Guzman v. Insys Therapeutics, Inc., filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The complaint revealed that multiple states—California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Washington—as well as the District of Columbia, have also joined the case.

Continue Reading DOJ Continues Aggressive Enforcement Action Against Opioid Manufacturers

On Wednesday May 9th, I was floored when the Administration released the Spring 2018 Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions, which contained this nugget: by December 2018, HRSA will publish its 340B Omnibus Guidance. Readers of our blog know that, as we predicted, this so-called Mega-Guidance was withdrawn in January 2017 without ever seeing the light of day. Within a day, the Unified Agenda was reposted with references to the so-called 340B Mega-Guidance removed, and HRSA acknowledged that its inclusion in the Unified Agenda was an error. The 340B Guidance remains shelved.  Continue Reading Last Week in 340B: the Revival [not] of the 340B Mega-Guidance, Another Senate Hearing, and the Trump Blueprint to Lower Drug Prices

On Friday, after weeks of delay, the President finally delivered his Drug Pricing Speech and released the HHS Blueprint detailing the Trump Administration’s plan to lower drug prices and reduce out-of-pocket costs.

The speech made pointed attacks on “the middlemen” and drug lobbyists. President Trump even called out Secretary Azar’s past role as a drug company executive when calling out drug companies’ role in high drug prices. Continue Reading President Trump Delivers Much Anticipated Drug Pricing Speech

Back in late 2015, we blogged about the interesting twist in the $125 million Warner Chilcott settlement that a Massachusetts physician had been criminally charged with violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).   See HERE for that previous post.

That physician has now been convicted of the HIPAA violation, as well as an unrelated charge of obstructing a federal health care investigation.  The US Attorney’s Office in Boston made the announcement late last month.

The Warner Chilcott settlement involved illegal drug promotion.  Specifically, sales reps were accused of flagging patient medical records with product brochures and filling out the provider’s prior authorization forms in advance for specific patients.  All of this required impermissible access to patient records.  The physician’s criminal liability stems from providing these sales reps with access to her patients’ records.  In some cases, the reps were even allowed to take the records home with them!

We are often reminded through settlements with the HHS Office for Civil Rights that HIPAA violations are taken seriously and can include hefty fines and corrective action plans (see HERE, HERE and HERE for just a few examples).  This case serves as fair warning that intentional misuse of protected patient information can lead to jail time.  When this physician is sentenced, she could be looking at up to a year in prison, a $50,000 fine, and a year of supervised release.  If you picture a sales rep combing through your personal health issues in his or her living room to determine whether you might be a sales target, it shouldn’t be so surprising that this conduct can rise to the level of criminal liability.

On Tuesday, May 8th, the House held three hearings related to combating the opioid epidemic. The first hearing came out of the Energy and Commerce (E&C) Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, which examined opioid distribution and diversion by the pharmaceutical industry. The second hearing came out of the E&C Subcommittee on Health, which examined the current statutory restrictiveness on the medical profession’s ability to coordinate substance use disorder (SUD) treatment due to prohibitions on certain patient information disclosure. The third hearing came out of the House Judiciary Committee and examined best practices in international and domestic enforcement on drug traffickers in curbing the supply of opioids across the U.S. Continue Reading Congress Holds Hearings and Proposes Legislation to Combat Vexing Opioid Crisis

As we highlighted earlier this month, CMS released both the Contract Year 2019 Final Rules for Medicare Advantage and Part D (Final Rules) and the 2019 Call Letter. These documents are not typically released at the same time, so there is a lot of information for Medicare Advantage organizations and Part D plan sponsors to absorb. One major topic area that CMS focuses on in these documents is the prevention of opioid misuse and abuse.

As you know, we have been following this topic closely in the last few months: first, we discussed how the proposed rules set out a framework for plan sponsors to monitor and reduce the potential misuse of frequently abused prescription drugs. We then discussed the Advance Notice and Call Letter outlining utilization review controls for Part D plans to use to address opioid misuse and abuse.

The Final Rules and 2019 Call Letter work together to establish a number of new policies aimed at helping Medicare plan sponsors prevent and combat prescription opioid overuse. There is significant discussion, including CMS’s response to commenters, in the final documents linked above. Here, we provide a high-level overview of the new policies.

Continue Reading CMS Continues to Focus Medicare Plans on Preventing Opioid Abuse

Earlier this week, CMS released both the Contract Year 2019 Final Rules for Medicare Advantage and Part D (Final Rules) and the 2019 Call Letter.  CMS also released fact sheets for the Final Rule and the Call Letter. The Final Rules and Call Letter are typically CMS’s most comprehensive regulatory announcements relating to Medicare Advantage and Part D each year and have historically not been released together. Because of the simultaneous release of these announcements, Medicare Advantage organizations (MAOs) and Part D plan sponsors have a lot to digest. Continue Reading CMS Releases 2019 MA and Part D Final Rules and Call Letter

As of March 2018, there are twenty-four Medicaid 1115 waivers pending CMS approval.   Medicaid 1115 waivers, Research and Demonstration Projects, give states experimental, pilot, or demonstration projects likely to assist in promoting the objectives of Medicaid. 1115 waivers allow states additional flexibility to design and improve their programs, i.e., to demonstrate and evaluate state-specific policy approaches to better serving Medicaid populations.

In general, 1115 waivers can be comprehensive, such as expanding Medicaid to the new adult group, or narrow to target a specific benefit or population. 1115 waivers must be budget neutral, meaning the waiver cannot exceed the federal costs if the waiver never existed. States must include a research and evaluation component of the 1115 waiver.

Proposals and concepts in 1115 waivers are developed at the state level. The state then submits an application to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for approval. CMS and the state then negotiate the terms of the waiver application. Typically, 1115 waivers are approved for five years and then renewed for up to three years at a time. Continue Reading Trends in 1115 Medicaid Waivers and Summaries of Each Pending Application

Mintz Levin and ML Strategies will host the 3rd Annual Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Industry Summit on May 8, 2018!  This year’s summit will take place in Boston and we are thrilled to announce that Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker will be the keynote speaker.  The Summit brings together stakeholders and thought leaders to discuss current hot topics facing manufacturers, PBMs, payors, pharmacies, and other providers.  This year’s Summit will include sessions on:

  • The evolving drug supply chain – distruptor models and the Amazon effect
  • Addressing drug pricing and supply chain economics – government investigations and ERISA litigation
  • The uncertain state of the 340B program
  • Government enforcement targeting financial relationships
  • Combatting the opioid crisis

For additional information on the Summit, including the full agenda and registration information, please visit our event website.

Mintz Levin’s Health Care Enforcement Defense Group released its most recent Health Care Qui Tam Update yesterday.  This Update analyzes 56 qui tam cases unsealed in October and November of last year. None of the 56 cases in this Update were unsealed within the statutorily-mandated 60 days, but one case was unsealed in 71 days. Additional trends include:

  • Cases were most often brought against hospitals, health systems, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and pharmacies;
  • The government intervened in 20% of the cases;
  • Of the cases in which the government declined to intervene, 60% continued to be litigated (at least initially) by the relators; and
  • Cases continue to be brought most often by former or current employees.

Click here to read the full Update.