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Roche Settles Whistleblower Lawsuit for $20M

Roche has agreed to pay $20M to settle a whistleblower complaint filed by an ex-manager who claimed that the drug Rituxan was marketed off-label and that Medicaid and Medicare ended up making payments for the immunosupressant that were unnecessary because of Roche is a unit of Genentech. Per the Pennsylvania whistleblower lawsuit, which was filed by former sales development senior manager John Underwood, Genentech encouraged doctors and medical providers to bill government reimbursement programs for ‘off-label’ uses of the drug and make it appear that their recommendation were arrived at independently.
During the period of time cited by Underwood (between 2000 and 2002), the Food and Drug Administration approved Rituxan to treat refractory/relapsed low-grade non-Hodgkins lymphoma and other types of non-Hodgkins lymphoma ( rheumatoid arthritis, lymphocytic leukemia, and follicular lymphoma have since been added to the drug’s label.) However, Underwood says that Genentech encouraged that Rituxan be used to treat a number of conditions that were off-label, including chronic lymphocytic leukemia, autoimmune hemolytic anemia, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Underwood also accused the drug maker of hiring doctors to “independently” speak about Rituxan and promote these off-label purposes. The physicians were paid consulting fees that were actually kickbacks and it was their job to get sales reps to also push the drug’s off-label uses. Many doctors were invited to educational seminars at “luxurious” sites, and physicians were retained to conduct workshops to teach salespersons “selling skills.” Sales reps also were allegedly offered financial incentives.
Filing a whistleblower lawsuit allows a US citizen to help expose fraud involving other(s) submitting a false claim to get the government to pay. Under the False Claims Act, a person who files a Qui Tam/whistleblower complaint may be eligible to receive up to 30% of whatever is recovered.
Underwood’s share of the $20 million settlement is $5.7 million. Genentech has also agreed to pay for Underwood’s legal fees and expenses. However, the drug manufacturer is not admitting to or denying wrongdoing by settling.
As a potential whistleblower it is important you keep the information you know that exposes fraud against the government private and that you talk to an experience whistleblower law firm immediately. Also, you should know that False Claims Act protects whistleblowers that come forward from retaliation.This means that if you were fired or placed on leave because you blew the whistle, you may be entitled to twice the amount of wages that you ended up losing.
Genentech settles Rituxan whistleblower suit for $20M, BizJournals, December 2, 2011
Roche Pays $20M To Settle Whistleblower Lawsuit, Pharmalot, December 2, 2011

Rituxan
Roche
Federal False Claims Act

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Our whistleblower lawyers at The Gilbert Law Group® represent clients throughout the US.

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