On Monday, May 4, 2015, DaVita Kidney Care, a division of DaVita Healthcare Partners, Inc. (DaVita), and one of the leading dialysis services providers in the United States, agreed to pay the U.S. Government $450 for allegedly violating the False Claims Act (FCA) when it continuously discarded good medicine and then billed Medicare and Medicaid for it. DaVita also agreed to pay $45 million for legal fees.
According to the lawsuit filed in 2011 by two former employees of DaVita, between 2003 and 2010, when DaVita administered iron and vitamin supplements such as Zemplar, Vitamin D, and Venofer, vials containing more than what the patients needed were used and the rest was thrown away. For example, if a patient only needed 25 milligrams of medicine, DaVita allegedly used a 100 milligram vial, administered only 25 mg, and tossed the rest in the trash. Although before 2001, this practice was condoned by the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in order to prevent infectious outbreaks caused by the re-entry of the same vial of medicine, the CDC subsequently changed it policies to outlaw this practice.
This FCA lawsuit alleging that DaVita misused and mishandled of medicine, and overbilled Medicare and Medicaid is not the first such allegation against DaVita, which is not a stranger to FCA lawsuits. In fact, DaVita previously settled two other lawsuits in which it allegedly violated the FCA. In October 2014, DaVita agreed to pay the U.S. Government $350 million for allegedly persuading physicians or physician groups to refer their dialysis patients to DaVita by offering kickbacks for each patient referred. And in 2012, DaVita agreed to pay $55 million to the federal government for overbilling the government for Epogen, an anemia drug. These lawsuits were filed by former employees who decided to come forward as whistleblowers and to help to uncover what they considered to be illegal practices by DaVita. Under the FCA, such whistleblowers can bring what is known as a “qui tam” lawsuit, which is brought by a private citizen to recover money obtained by fraud on the government. As an incentive to bring qui tam lawsuits, the FCA provides that qui whistleblowers receive between 15 and 30 percent of the amount of funds recovered for the government.
Provisions of the FCA make it unlawful for a person or company to defraud governmental programs, such as Medicare or Medicaid. If you have information concerning a potential case involving Medicare or Medicaid fraud, do not hesitate to take action. It is possible that you might be able to bring your own qui tam lawsuit under the False Claims Act, acting as a whistleblower on behalf of the US government. Before filing your lawsuit, be sure to consult with an attorney familiar with the intricacies of the False Claims Act and qui tam lawsuits, as these attorneys are best equipped to help protect your rights and help you gain your share of any monetary reward from a potential settlement.
If you would like to consult with one of our False Claims Act qui tam attorneys concerning healthcare fraud, please fill out our Confidential Case Evaluation form, or call (202) 973-0900 to speak with a lawyer at the law office of Tycko & Zavareei LLP.