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Whistleblower lawsuit results in $30 million settlement with Bristol-Myers Squibb

News: 2016 Press Release

For Release: July 18, 2016
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Whistleblower lawsuit results in $30 million settlement with Bristol-Myers Squibb

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones reached a $30 million settlement with pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb over allegations of drug marketing fraud and physician kickbacks. The settlement stems from charges in a whistleblower lawsuit filed by three former Bristol-Myers Squibb sales representatives. Insurance Commissioner Jones joined the whistleblowers in the lawsuit.

"Patients have a right to expect medications prescribed for them are based solely on medical need and not because the physician was given tickets to a sporting event or treated to a lavish golf outing," said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. "Illegal and unethical marketing practices put patient health at risk if a medical professional is influenced by the inducements offered by drug makers."

The whistleblower lawsuit alleged that Bristol-Myers Squibb violated the California Insurance Frauds Prevention Act by employing and using sales representatives for the purpose of defrauding private commercial health insurers by using kickbacks to procure patients or clients. The kickbacks were designed to increase physician prescriptions of several drugs produced by Bristol-Myers Squibb including Pravachol, used to lower cholesterol. As part of its alleged scheme, Bristol-Myers Squibb provided physicians and their families with gifts and cash to induce physicians to increase prescriptions for Bristol-Myers Squibb products. Enticements included: 

  • Box suites at sporting events where physicians were provided tickets, food, drinks, and parking.
  • Enrollment in a Lakers basketball camp for doctors and their children.
  • Pre-paid golf outings at luxurious golf courses.
  • Tickets for physicians and their families to see Broadway plays in California cities.
  • Monetary incentives given to doctors responsible for prescription-drug decisions for formularies.
  • Lavish dinners, resort hotel trips, and concert tickets, given to doctors who were large-volume prescribers, to induce more prescriptions in the future.

In addition to the $30 million payment, the settlement agreement with the insurance commissioner requires Bristol-Myers Squibb to affirm its commitment to abiding by California laws regulating its sales representatives' interactions with doctors, including compliance with pertinent provisions of the California Health and Safety Code and the California Insurance Frauds Prevention Act. Among other requirements, Bristol-Myers Squibb is required to utilize a Comprehensive Compliance Program that is in accordance with the Office of Inspector General's "Compliance Program Guidance for Pharmaceutical Manufacturers."

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Media Notes:

  • This whistleblower lawsuit was initially filed by former Bristol-Myers Squibb employees Michael Wilson and Lucius and Eve Allen, all of whom are represented by the law firm of Waters Kraus & Paul in Los Angeles. Lucius Allen is a former Los Angeles Lakers basketball player.
  • As required by the state's insurance whistleblower law, Bristol-Myers Squibb's settlement payment will be divided between the whistleblowers and the State of California. The state will receive $14.1 million, to be used to enhance the investigation and prevention of insurance fraud. Bristol-Myers Squibb did not admit to wrongdoing in the settlement agreement.
  • Insurers alleged to have been defrauded: Prudential, Cigna, Maxicare, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of California (name of entity at time lawsuit was filed), HMSA Health Plan Hawaii, Scan Health Plus, United Health Plan, CalOptima, Argus, Merck-Medco, PCS, Prosever, Express RX/Value RX/DPS, Caremark, MedImpact/MedCare, Envoy, Aetna Pharmacy Management, Pharmaceutical Care Net, Advance PCS, Rx America, Prescription Solutions, WellPoint Pharmaceutical Management, First Health, Save-Rx, PacifiCare, and Health Net.
  • Medications in kickback scheme included: Plavix, Pravachol, Monopril, Abilify, Glucovance, Metaglip, Glucophage, Glucophage XR, Cefzil, BuSpar, Serzone, Tequin, Pravigard, and Avapro.
  • Federal press release
  • Federal settlement agreement
  • Online information about money received by doctors
  • California Health and Safety Code sections 119400 through 119402  
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb settlement agreement

Led by Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, the California Department of Insurance is the consumer protection agency for the nation's largest insurance marketplace and safeguards all of the state’s consumers by fairly regulating the insurance industry. Under the Commissioner’s direction, the Department uses its authority to protect Californians from insurance rates that are excessive, inadequate, or unfairly discriminatory, oversee insurer solvency to pay claims, set standards for agents and broker licensing, perform market conduct reviews of insurance companies, resolve consumer complaints, and investigate and prosecute insurance fraud. Consumers are urged to call 1-800-927-4357 with any questions or contact us at via webform or online chat. Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800-927-4357. Teletypewriter (TTY), please dial 800-482-4833.

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