Lilly, Bayer dodge whistleblower suits as judge follows DOJ's lead

A federal judge dismissed whistleblower lawsuits against Bayer and Eli Lilly after the government conducted its own investigation and decided not to proceed. (Pixabay)

Eli Lilly and Bayer are in the clear. A set of whistleblower lawsuits alleging drugmakers ran “white-coat marketing” schemes—by offering nursing and reimbursement services as kickbacks—generated buzz in the industry, but government prosecutors looked into the claims and opted not to move forward. Now, after appeals, a court has tossed out the cases against the two pharmas.

In lawsuits that stem back to 2017, the National Healthcare Analysis Group alleged Eli Lilly, Bayer and other companies offered kickbacks in the form of reimbursement services, free nursing and more. The government looked into the claims and moved to dismiss the lawsuits last year because it said they “lack sufficient merit to justify the cost of investigation and prosecution."  

NHCA fought to keep their claims alive, but now Judge Robert Schroeder III in Texas has scrapped the cases against Lilly and Bayer. In a filing, he said the government has a “legitimate” interest to prioritize resources. 

The whistleblowers didn’t show “that the government’s dismissal decision was fraudulent, illegal, motivated by animus, or arbitrary and capricious,” Schroeder wrote. “The government’s decision was the product of a months-long evaluation.” 

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

Initially, NHCA sued Amgen, Biogen, EMD Serono, Teva, AstraZeneca, AbbVie, Otsuka, UCB, Bayer, Eli Lilly and Gilead, accusing the companies of using nurse educators as part of a kickback scheme to entice doctors to prescribe their meds. The government investigated the claims for 1,500 hours and determined that proceeding with prosecuting the cases would be “contrary to the public interest,” it said in filings last year. 

Further, the government said NHCA claimed to be a research group with “no particular bias” about the industry, but in fact sought to profit by advancing “sweeping allegations of nationwide misconduct by thirty-eight different defendants.” The government said its own research found that the claims weren't worth pursuing.