Pharmacist Whistleblower Recovers Over $120 Million
In Medicaid Fraud False Claims Act Settlements
Walgreens Pays $35 Million · CVS Pays $37 Million
Omnicare, Largest Nursing Home Pharmacy, Pays $50 Million
Omnicare Switching Settlement · Omnicare Kickbacks Settlement

United States Joins Whistleblower Case Accusing Par Pharmaceuticals of Perpetrating Nationwide Drug Switching Scheme to Cheat the Government

CHICAGO – A leading generic drug distributor, Par Pharmaceuticals, and two foreign companies defrauded government healthcare systems through a nationwide drug switching scheme, alleges a whistleblower lawsuit that became public today when it was unsealed by the federal court in Chicago. According to the complaint, filed by the Behn & Wyetzner law firm of Chicago, Par conspired with Walgreens and other pharmacies to illegally switch prescriptions of generic Prozac® (fluoxetine) and generic Zantac® (ranitidine) to Par's products for the purpose of charging Medicaid significantly higher prices. The United States and certain individual states have joined the case against Par. (USDC ND IL 06 C 6131)

Walgreens is not named as a defendant in the complaint. However, in June 2008, Walgreens paid $35 million to the United States and 42 states to settle allegations that the pharmacy defrauded Medicaid by illegally switching ranitidine and fluoxetine drugs. Walgreens denied liability. (USDC ND IL 03 C 743)

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Whistleblowers

Pharmacists have initiated a number of highly successful qui tam actions under the False Claims Act. As the front line professionals responsible for dispensing medications to Medicaid beneficiaries, pharmacists are particularly well suited to discover and report Medicaid fraud. The Walgreens settlement marks another successful result of actions taken by pharmacists to protect taxpayer funds.

The pharmacist became a qui tam relator after discovering the drug switching in processing transfers of prescriptions from Walgreens pharmacies. According to his qui tam Complaint, the pharmacist discovered the Medicaid fraud after noting that a Walgreens prescription was for ranitidine capsules rather than tablets, the industry standard. The pharmacist relator stated that Walgreens pharmacists told him that the pharmacy chain had set up its system to fill all ranitidine prescriptions as capsules regardless of what a physician had specifically prescribed.

The same pharmacist relator also successfully pursued a qui tam action against CVS pharmacies for Medicaid fraud arising from drug switching, which resulted in a $37 million settlement.

The initial qui tam case by the relator pharmacist was against his prior employer, Omnicare Inc., the nation's largest pharmacy for nursing homes. That Medicaid fraud case resulted in a $50 million settlement of False Claims Act allegations.

A pharmacist's report to the government led to a $50 million settlement by Omnicare, Inc., the nation's largest pharmacy for nursing homes, to resolve federal and state charges that it defrauded Medicaid by switching generic drugs. The Omnicare case was the first to challenge generic drug switching, and served to strengthen Medicaid's price containment programs for generic drugs. The relator discovered the conduct which led to this settlement while he was a pharmacist at Omnicare. The pharmacist relator was represented by Behn & Wyetzner, Chartered.

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The Attorneys

Michael I. Behn is an experienced trial lawyer and former federal prosecutor who concentrates his practice in the civil prosecution of fraud. He founded the Chicago law firm, Behn & Wyetzner, Chartered and is a member of the Whistleblower Action Network. Mr. Behn primarily represents citizens who have reported fraud against the government, under the qui tam provisions of the state and federal False Claims Acts.

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Linda Wyetzner is a seasoned trial lawyer and negotiator, with 20 years' experience representing employees in disputes with their employers.

Ms. Wyetzner founded the Chicago law firm of Behn & Wyetzner, Chartered, and is a member of the Whistleblower Action Network. She primarily represents citizens who have reported fraud under the qui tam provisions of the federal and state False Claims Acts.

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Walgreens Settlement

CBS News Report

By paying $35 million, Walgreens, the self-proclaimed "Pharmacy America Trusts®" settled allegations by pharmacist whistleblower Bernard Lisitza that it unlawfully defrauded Medicaid by switching prescriptions for ranitidine, the generic form of the brand-name drug Zantac®, and fluoxetine, the generic form of Prozac®. The Walgreens case was pursued by Lisitza as a “relator” under "qui tam" provisions of federal and state False Claims Acts, after he uncovered the conduct and reported the problem to the government. Relator Lisitza pursued the case with the assistance of his attorneys, Michael I. Behn and Linda Wyetzner, of Behn & Wyetzner, Chartered, in Chicago.

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