Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (“Boehringer”) based in Connecticut has agreed to pay $95 million to settle allegations that it violated the False Claims Act.
Specifically, it was alleged that Boehringer unlawfully promoted the drugs Aggrenox, Atrovent, Combivent and Micardis for off-label uses and promoted the use of Combivent and Atrovent at doses that exceeded the doses covered by federal health care programs. Once a drug is approved for a specific use and at a specific dosage by the Food and Drug Administration, any promotion by the company for a different use or at a different dosage is considered “misbranded.”
In addition, the complaint alleges that Boehringer made unsubstantiated claims regarding the effectiveness of Aggrenox in order to encourage its use over other similar medications, and paid illegal recompense to medical providers in exchange for prescribing the medications.
The allegations were originally brought to light by whistleblower Robert Heiden under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act. Heiden, a former salesperson for Boehringer, filed the qui tam lawsuit in Maryland. The whistleblower alleged that Boehringer’s misbranded marketing, illegal kickbacks to health care professionals, and misleading statements about drug effectiveness caused false claims to be submitted to government health care programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE.
As his reward, the whistleblower will receive more than $17 million of the settlement amount.