Eli Lilly takes $61M hit in Medicaid whistleblower lawsuit, but remains adamant it will 'ultimately prevail'

More than eight years after a former pharmacist sued Eli Lilly, Bristol Myers Squibb and other drugmakers for allegedly skimping out on Medicaid rebates, Lilly’s day in court has finally come.

Now, a jury has found the Indianapolis-based company liable for defrauding the nation’s Medicaid program and ordered it to shell out $61 million in damages.

Because the damages are trebled under the False Claims Act, meanwhile, the final judgement will exceed $183 million, the law firm of whistleblower Ronald Streck—Walden Macht & Haran (WM&H)—said in a Wednesday release.

Lilly told Fierce Pharma via email that the company “is committed to upholding high standards of corporate conduct in our business dealings.”

“We are obviously disappointed with the jury’s verdict and we are confident that Lilly will ultimately prevail in this case," a company spokesperson said, adding that Lilly "will be seeking to vacate the jury’s verdict and for judgment to be entered in Lilly’s favor."

“The jury has spoken,” said Streck’s lawyer, Dan Miller, in a statement. “Eli Lilly knowingly violated the False Claims Act and defrauded the Medicaid Program of $61 million in taxpayer money.”

Streck—a pharmacist and lawyer—filed suit against Eli Lilly in 2014, WM&H points out. His lawsuit alleges Lilly launched retroactive price increases on its drugs and failed to pay Medicaid rebates on the new, pricier meds.

Streck and his attorneys moved forward with litigation in 2018 after “the Government declined to intervene,” Streck’s law firm said.

Since then, Streck and his compatriots have successfully warded off two motions to dismiss by Lilly and another defendant, Astellas Pharma U.S.

Streck also filed a False Claims Act whistleblower suit against Bristol Myers Squibb and others in 2013, but later withdrew his claims against the other defendants, while maintaining allegations that BMS fraudulently manipulated its average manufacturer prices to underpay Medicaid rebates from 2007 to 2016.

As with Astellas and Lilly in 2018, in December of that year, a federal court rejected BMS’ attempt to escape the case.

BMS ultimately settled for $75 million in 2021 while Astellas’ U.S. unit resolved its case for $18 million that same year.

Elsewhere, Streck has prevailed in similar cases against other drug majors. AstraZeneca, Teva’s Cephalon and Biogen Idec agreed to fork over more than $50 million in 2015 to settle claims that they underpaid Medicaid rebates. AZ paid the biggest share of the settlement at $46.5 million, compared with Cephalon’s $7.5 million and Biogen Idec’s $1.5 million.