Bayer pays $40M to settle with whistleblower who said company violated False Claims Act

It took 17 years, but Bayer and former employee Laurie Simpson have finally resolved their whistleblower lawsuit.

Without admitting wrongdoing, Bayer agreed to pay $40 million—including $11 million to Simpson—to settle her claims that the company used kickbacks and violated the False Claims Act in marketing its drugs Avelox, Baycol and Trasylol.

Bayer termed it a “business decision," in an emailed statement. 

"Resolution was preferable to continuing already protracted litigation under a statute that is inefficient and in need of reform. Significantly, the federal government never chose to intervene in these two FCA cases, and now as a result of the settlement, they will be dismissed," it said.

Simpson, who worked in marketing for Bayer, filed a lawsuit in 2005 claiming that the company paid kickbacks to physicians and hospitals and marketed Avelox and Trasylol for unreasonable off-label uses. Avelox is used to combat bacterial infections. Trasylol curbs blood loss during surgery.

The following year, Simpson filed another suit relating to Baycol, claiming Bayer downplayed the risk of the statin and misrepresented its efficacy to win a contract with the Defense Logistics Agency.

Bayer pulled Baycol off the market in 2001 and four years later paid $1 billion to settle approximately 3,000 cases that claimed the drug caused a muscle tissue to break down. Traysol was taken off the market in 2007.

“This resolution should send a message to the pharmaceutical industry that such conduct undermines the integrity of federal healthcare programs and jeopardizes patient safety,” U.S. attorney Philip Sellinger said in the release. “This settlement reflects the importance of the whistleblower’s role in litigating False Claims Act actions on behalf of the United States.”

In the 2005 suit, Simpson claimed that Bayer provided kickbacks to healthcare providers in the form of honoraria, grants, speaker program fees, entertainment, travel and other benefits.

She also claimed that Bayer terminated her in 2005 for raising issues internally.

Both cases were filed under the False Claims Act, which encourages people to fight fraud against the government. In her 2005 suit, Simpson said that Bayer’s conduct caused the submission of false claims to Medicare and Medicaid programs. The FCA provides a monetary reward of between 15% and 30% of what the government recovers and prohibits retaliation against whistleblowers.