Biogen, a Massachusetts-based pharmaceutical company that specializes in treatments for neurological diseases, will pay $900 million to settle a whistleblower lawsuit alleging that doctors were earning kickbacks for prescribing the company’s drugs for multiple sclerosis (MS), the Justice Department announced Sept. 26.
The whistleblower lawsuit was filed by former Biogen employee, Michael Bawduniak, who sued Biogen in 2012 on behalf of the federal government under the False Claims Act, CNBC reported.
The whistleblower lawsuit alleged that Biogen encouraged doctors to prescribe the MS drugs Avonex, Tysabri and Tecfidera by paying doctors for speaking fees, consulting fees and meals from 2009 through 2014.
The lawsuit specifies false claims for Medicare and Medicaid billing. Out of the $900 million that Biogen will pay, approximately $843 million will go to the federal government, with $250 million of those funds going directly to Bawduniak. In addition, 15 U.S. states will receive approximately $56 million as part of the settlement.
“The settlement announced today underscores the critical role that whistleblowers play in complementing the United States’ use of the False Claims Act to combat fraud affecting federal health care programs,” said Brian Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s civil division.
U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, Rachael S. Rollins, said in the DOJ announcement, “We thank Mr. Bawduniak for uncovering this behavior and bringing it to light … This matter is an important example of the vital role that whistleblowers and their attorneys can play in protecting our nation’s public health care programs.”
Biogen released a statement the same day the Justice Department announced the settlement, stating, “Biogen believes its intent and conduct was at all times lawful and appropriate and Biogen denies all allegations raised in this case.”
The statement added, “The U.S. and the states did not intervene in the case and the settlement does not include any admission of liability by Biogen.”