Sixteen States, DOJ Join Whistle-Blower Lawsuits Alleging Wyeth Defrauded Medicaid Programs
The U.S. Department of Justice and 16 states have joined two whistle-blower lawsuits filed in federal District Court in Massachusetts alleging that Wyeth defrauded the government by not offering the same discounts on two medications to Medicaid that it offered to hospitals, the Wall Street Journal reports. The lawsuits were initiated following a grand-jury investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Massachusetts (Johnson, Wall Street Journal, 5/19). The other states included in the lawsuits are California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, New York, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia (Barrett, AP/Austin American-Statesman, 5/18).
According to the lawsuits, Wyeth from 2000 to 2006 sold hospitals a bundled package called the Protonix Performance Agreement, which included its acid-reflux drugs Protonix Oral and Protonix IV. The suits allege that Wyeth gave hospitals up to a 94% discount for the oral version under the deal, with the understanding that when patients were released from hospitals they would be switched from the intravenous version of the drug to the oral version. According to the complaint, Wyeth hoped to gain an edge in a competitive market for acid-reflux pills by taking advantage of its standing as the only company offering an IV acid-reflux drug. The Journal reports that Wyeth charged hospitals $20 per vial for the IV version of Protonix and $3 for the oral version.
Medicaid rules stipulate that the program is entitled to the lowest price on prescription drugs, and drugmakers are required to pay states rebates if they offer discounts to any other entities. The lawsuits state that Wyeth avoided paying hundreds of millions of dollars to state Medicaid programs because it did not offer the programs the same discounts or provide rebates (Wall Street Journal, 5/19).
The lawsuits are seeking financial penalties against Wyeth of up to three times the amount lost by Medicaid. Assistant Attorney General Tony West said, "By offering massive discounts to hospitals, but then hiding that information from the Medicaid program, we believe Wyeth caused Medicaid programs throughout the country to pay much more for these drugs than they should have." Wyeth spokesperson Doug Petkus said that Wyeth "believes that its pricing calculations were correct and intends to defend itself vigorously in these actions" (AP/Austin American-Statesman, 5/18).