Judge Dismisses ‘White Coat’ Whistleblower Allegations Against Bayer, Eli Lilly
Eli Lilly and Bayer are breathing a little easier after a federal judge tossed out whistleblower lawsuits that alleged that the two pharmaceutical giants used nurses to illegally boost sales of various prescription drugs in a kickback scheme.
In 2017, a lawsuit was filed alleging that Eli Lilly and Bayer, as well as other companies, attempted to use the free nursing services as a way to boost sales of diabetes drugs, such as Humalog and Humulin, as well as other drugs. But after two years of investigation, the government did not find that the claims filed by the National Healthcare Analysis Group had merit to move forward. The Department of Justice urged a dismissal of the allegations and this week, federal Judge Robert Schroeder III agreed. He dismissed the cases against the two pharmaceutical companies, FiercePharma reported.
Citing Schroeder’s opinion, the report notes that the whistleblowers, meaning the National Healthcare Analysis Group, failed to generate enough evidence to support the continuation of a trial. Schroeder said the government has a legitimate interest to prioritize its resources in investigations. The government’s decision was the “product of a months-long evaluation,” Schroeder said.
The dismissal of the lawsuits comes after the Department of Justice urged federal judges to dismiss lawsuits brought by what it called shell companies that file meritless litigation against life science and pharmaceutical companies. In its announcement last year, the DOJ specifically singled out the National Healthcare Analysis Group and its proxy, Plaintiff Health Choice Group. The DOJ said Plaintiff Health Choice Group is a “pseudonym for a partnership comprised of limited liability companies set up by investors and former Wall Street investment bankers.” That partnership then filed numerous lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies with similar kickback claims, which the DOJ called “cloned complaints.”
In addition to Bayer and Eli Lilly, the National Healthcare Analysis Group also targeted Amgen, AbbVie, Biogen, EMD Serono, Teva Pharmaceuticals, AstraZeneca, Gilead Sciences and more. The group accused each of these companies of using nurses as part of a kickback scheme.
Months after that announcement, National Healthcare Analysis Group fought back against the DOJ statement. In March, attorneys for National Healthcare Analysis Group claimed that the federal government never investigated the allegations before making its announcement. In its legal filing, the National Healthcare Analysis Group attorneys said the DOJ spent more time investigating the complainant rather than the companies and their alleged kickback scheme.
While the DOJ dismissed the claims against Eli Lilly and Bayer, other kickback schemes involving nurse educators have had merit. In 2017. Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk settled a DOJ probe into similar marketing practices called “white coat marketing schemes” Under those allegations, Novo Nordisk disguised salespeople as medical educators to boost prescriptions of three diabetes drugs, NovoLog, Levimir and Victoza. According to whistleblower allegations, the company sent salespeople disguised as diabetes educators into doctor’s offices to promote the company’s diabetes drugs, which was a violation of federal law.