On Thursday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and other federal law enforcement authorities in Boston Massachusetts announced a 10 million dollar settlement resolving allegations that Partners HealthCare System and one of its hospitals, Brigham and Women’s Hospital used fraudulent research to obtain grant funding from the National Institutes of Health (“NIH”).
The allegations against Partners HealthCare System and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (collectively, the “Hospital”) centered around a laboratory at the Hospital specializing in stem cell research. Three scientists at the laboratory allegedly knew or should have known that their research was plagued by improper research protocols, reckless or deliberately recordkeeping, and flawed/fabricated data and images. The researchers later caused false information to be included in applications for NIH research grant awards concerning the purported ability of stem cells to repair damage to the heart.
Brigham and Women’s Hospital learned of the alleged research misconduct and engaged in its own investigation. It then disclosed its concerns to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General (“OIG”) and Office of Research Integrity and cooperated with an investigation into the basis for the allegations. The scientists engaged in the alleged misconduct are no longer affiliated with the Hospital.
Acting U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb described the threat that research fraud represents to the public interest: “Individuals and institutions that receive research funding from NIH have an obligation to conduct their research honestly and not to alter results to conform with unproven hypotheses . . . Medical research fraud not only wastes scarce government resources but also undermines the scientific process and the search for better treatments for serious diseases.”
Gregory E. Demske, HHS OIG Chief Counsel to the Inspector General, said that the settlement of the allegations “underscores the Inspector General’s commitment to promoting data integrity and scientific principles in HHS-sponsored grants and in addressing fraud affecting any HHS program.” Both Mr. Weinreb and Mr. Demske commended the Hospital for its efforts in self-investigating and disclosing its concerns to investigating authorities.
Partners HealthCare System and Brigham and Women’s Hospital voluntarily disclosed their misconduct to the federal government, but other businesses attempt to profit from government healthcare programs by hiding their misconduct or failing to properly investigate. In these cases of healthcare fraud, it’s often up to whistleblowers and qui tam law firms to fight fraud and protect the interests of the general public. If you are aware of a company that is engaging in a fraudulent practice, do not hesitate to take action. The law firm of Tycko & Zavareei LLP may be able to assist you in bringing your own qui tam lawsuit under the False Claims Act, acting as a whistleblower on behalf of the U.S. government. Successful qui tam whistleblowers can receive, as their reward, between 15% and 30% of the amount recovered for the government. If you would like to consult with one of our False Claims Act attorneys please fill out our Confidential Case Evaluation form, or call (202) 973-0900 to speak with a lawyer.