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Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Inc., and its drug subsidiary Pharmacia & Upjohn Company, Inc. are paying $2.3 billion to settle the largest criminal and civil health care fraud action ever brought by the U.S. Department of Justice.
According the DOJ, six whistleblowers ('relators' in legalese) who filed qui tam lawsuits under the False Claims Act will collectively receive more than $102 million for their roles in uncovering fraud and "off-label" use of Pfizer drugs that were not approved by the FDA.
Which former Pfizer employees will reap millions for helping expose the company's illegal practices?
The answer isn't clear because ten whistleblowers signed the actual settlement agreement, not six.
The whistleblower lawsuits alleged that Pfizer marketed and sold prescription medications like the now-withdrawn COX-2 NSAID anti-inflammatory drug Bextra, the anti-psychotic drug Geodon, the anti-epileptic drug Lyrica, and the antibiotic Zyvox. The charges alleged that Pfizer caused false claims to be submitted to government health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid for drug uses that were not approved by the FDA.
The civil portion of the settlements charged that Pfizer was in the practice of paying illegal kickbacks to doctors to have them prescribe Bextra, Geodon, Zyvox, Lyrica, and other prescription drugs, and caused false claims to be submitted to government health care programs for uses that were not medically accepted indications and therefore not covered by those programs.