April 26th, 2013
Shepherd, Finkelman, Miller & Shah, LLP (“SFMS”) announces that the United States has intervened in a qui tam whistleblower suit under the False Claims Act accusing Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. (“Novartis”) of fraudulently billing Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, and other federal- and state-funded healthcare programs by Novartis’ Cardiovascular Diseases (“CV”) Division through a wide array of kickback and unlawful marketing schemes. Notice of the United States’ intervention was announced in court documents that were unsealed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York on April 22, 2013.
“We believe that Novartis’ alleged payment of kickbacks is yet another example of abuse in the pharmaceutical industry that contributes to skyrocketing medical costs,” said James E. Miller, Esquire, of Shepherd, Finkelman, Miller, and Shah, LLP (“SFMS”), who, along with John Mininno, Esquire, of Mininno Law Offices (“Mininno”) and Eric L. Young, Esquire, of Young Law Group, P.C. (“YLG”), is representing the whistleblower, former Novartis sales representative, Oswald Bilotta. John Mininno, Esquire commented as follows: “We are pleased that the United States has decided to intervene in this matter and we look forward to working with the government in pursuing this important case.”
The whistleblower complaint alleges that Novartis committed a massive fraud at the expense of taxpayers with regard to its sales and marketing of its drugs Lotrel, Valturna, Starlix, Tekturna, Diovan and Exforge. As detailed in the complaint, through an alleged kickback and misbranding campaign, Novartis took a mediocre hypertensive drug that was no more effective than existing drugs, including numerous generics, and fraudulently spun it into Lotrel, a blockbuster brand drug falsely hyped as the superior pharmacological solution not only for its approved uses, but also for off-label uses for which the product was medically unproven.
Notably, Novartis has been here before. In September 2010, the company publicly announced that it agreed to pay approximately $422 million in criminal and civil fines and penalties to resolve claims that it had paid kickbacks to prescribers of Trileptal, Diovan, Zelnorm, Sandostatin, Tekturna, and Exforge, in addition to claims that the company had promoted some of these drugs for unapproved uses.
After retaining SFMS, Mininno and YLG, the whistleblower filed a qui tam lawsuit in federal district court in Manhattan in January 5, 2011. The qui tam case was kept under seal, meaning that it was not known to the public, while the government investigated the allegations. “Thanks to courageous people like Mr. Bilotta, perpetrators of fraud are being held to account for fraudulent sales and promotional activities that artificially increases the burden on taxpayers . . . we are confident based upon the evidence presented by Mr. Bilotta and the results of the ensuing government investigation that Novartis will be held to account for its wrongs,” said Mr. Young, a veteran qui tam litigator.
SFMS is a nationally recognized law firm (http://www.sfmslaw.com) that represents its clients, including business entities, consumers, individual and institutional investors, fiduciaries, state and other governmental entities, and whistleblowers, in complex litigation and other matters. SFMS maintains offices in California, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The firm’s attorneys have appeared in matters on behalf of our clients throughout the United States and have served as lead counsel in a number of class action, corporate governance and qui tam matters. Founded in 2002, SFMS has recovered in excess of $1 billion in damages for its clients in its first ten years of existence.
Mr. Mininno is a solo practitioner with offices in Collingswood, New Jersey, who recently helped found NHCA, a private organization that consults and works with healthcare providers and whistleblowers to help prevent healthcare fraud throughout the United States.
YLG (http://www.eganyoung.com), located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, specializes in representing whistleblowers (“relators”) in qui tam lawsuits brought under the False Claims Act. The False Claims Act allows private individuals to sue companies that are defrauding the federal government and to recover funds on the government’s behalf. Whistleblowers are entitled to 15 percent to 25 percent of the civil recoveries that result from the qui tam lawsuit.