Feds abandon 11 'white-coat' kickback probes, questioning whistleblower motives instead

The Department of Justice is calling it quits on nearly a dozen kickbacks lawsuits against pharma companies after investigating for 1,500 hours. (Pixabay)

After digging into almost a dozen whistleblower complaints alleging pharma companies ran kickback schemes with nurse educators as the "payment"—so-called white-coat marketing—the government is backing out.  

The National Healthcare Analysis Group and related organizations had sued Amgen, Biogen, EMD Serono, Teva, AstraZeneca, AbbVie, Otsuka, UCB, Bayer, Eli Lilly and Gilead, accusing the companies of using nurse educators as kickbacks to entice doctors to prescribe their meds.  

But, after having investigated the claims for more than 1,500 hours, the government said in motions to dismiss that the allegations “lack sufficient merit to justify the cost of investigation and prosecution,” adding that further litigation would be “contrary to the public interest.”

In its motions, the government laid out some background around the National Healthcare Analysis Group and a series of shell companies formed to file the lawsuits.  

NHCA, which claims to be a healthcare research company with “no particular bias” about the industry, in fact seeks profit from its lawsuits against drugmakers, the government says. 

Its strategy, the government says, includes using public sources to compile a database of resumes to find “potential informants” for its lawsuits. With that info, it reached out to those professionals “under the guise of conducting a ‘qualitative research study’ of the pharmaceutical industry" and paid the participants. 

With knowledge from those interviews, NHCA advanced “sweeping allegations of nationwide misconduct by thirty-eight different defendants.” The government said its own research found the allegations don’t merit further litigation.