Recently, pharmaceutical companies are gaining increased notoriety for violations of the False Claims Act, the Anti-Kickback Statute, and general fraudulent practices directed toward physicians and medical care providers with the intent to increase profits. In 2019, Avanir Pharmaceuticals settled with the Department of Justice to pay more than $108 million of criminal penalties and civil damages for engaging in kickbacks with physicians, and misleading marketing of their drug Nudexta for unapproved purposes. Then, in May of 2021, Incyte Corp., a Delaware-based pharmaceutical manufacturer agreed to pay $12.6 million for unspecified damages arising under a violation of the Federal False Claims Act for improperly using an independent foundation to cover copays of individuals consuming Incyte’s cancer drug, Jakafi. Despite widespread prosecutions against pharmaceutical drug manufacturers, and the fraud deterrent provisions of the False Claims Act, the risk of fraud and remuneration still runs high in relationships between healthcare professionals and pharmaceutical companies.
On October 17, 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published two proposed rules in the Federal Register that could potentially transform key federal laws restricting health care arrangements. These rules address perceived or actual barriers to care coordination and value-based care under Stark Law, the Anti-Kickback Statute, and the Civil Monetary Penalty (“CMP”) law. The proposals are intended to “modernize and clarify” the regulations that implement and interpret these laws in order to drive innovation and more towards a more affordable health care delivery and payment system, while also maintaining barriers to prevent fraud and abuse. The proposed rules “will improve outcomes by moving away from the old modes of inpatient hospitalizations.”
On October 24, President Trump signed a new bill aimed at combatting issues arising from the opioid epidemic. This bill, entitled the Substance-Use Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act (the “SUPPORT” Act) is a combination of seventy bills that effect the healthcare industry. This act includes new and revised Medicaid and Medicare laws that relate to the opioid crisis through the expansion of substance use disorder services. However, this bill, primarily aimed to combat the opioid epidemic, contains key provisions that will affect healthcare providers. Healthcare providers should be especially mindful of this new Act, as there are new anti-kickback provisions that require compliance officers and departments to ensure that their healthcare entities are in compliance with this new law.
This summer I had the opportunity to intern with the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (OIG) in Washington, DC. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with OIG, and I learned a great deal about health care fraud, waste, and abuse. In spending my summer with OIG, I had a glimpse into the powerful regulatory bodies that protect the health care market from abuse. As I move forward with my career in regulatory work, I will take with me the invaluable experiences and skills from my internship.