Purdue was unnamed opioid maker at center of EHR kickback scheme: report

court decision
Purdue is in the midst of a court-supervised restructuring as it faces thousands of opioid lawsuits. (Pixabay)

Squeezed by thousands of opioid lawsuits and in the midst of a court-supervised restructuring, Purdue Pharma now appears to be the kingpin in a busted kickbacks ring. According to Reuters, the drugmaker stood at the center of a scheme that netted federal prosecutors a nine-figure settlement earlier this week. 

Purdue has been identified as "Pharma Co. X," an unnamed opioid maker at the center of a federal kickback probe that netted a $145 million criminal and civil settlement Monday from Practice Fusion, a subsidiary of Allscripts Healthcare, Reuters reports.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Vermont, Practice Fusion admitted that it had solicited and received kickbacks from a major opioid company––allegedly Purdue, which shelled out roughly $1 million in payments––in exchange for using its electronic health record (EHR) software to influence physician prescribing of opioid pain medications.

"During the height of the opioid crisis, (Practice Fusion) took a million-dollar kickback to allow an opioid company to inject itself in the sacred doctor-patient relationship so that it could peddle even more of its highly addictive and dangerous opioids,” Christina Nolan, U.S. attorney for the District of Vermont, said in a statement.

The case represented the largest criminal fine in federal court history in Vermont, and it was the first-ever criminal action against a vendor of EHRs, prosecutors said. 

RELATED: Practice Fusion to pay $145M settlement for taking kickbacks aimed at increasing opioid prescriptions

Practice Fusion is now owned by healthcare technology company Allscripts, which acquired the firm for $100 million in January 2018, a year after the company received an inquiry from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Vermont examining the company’s compliance with the EHR certification program as part of a criminal investigative demand. 

A tentative agreement between Practice Fusion and federal prosecutors was reached in August, and the U.S. Attorney's Office released details on Monday.

Practice Fusion has since been rebranded as Veradigm with a focus on the payer and life sciences markets.

RELATED: Purdue, billionaire founders win temporary reprieve from lawsuits in hopes of reaching deal

Purdue's alleged involvement in the suit could put heightened pressure on the opioid maker as it faces restructuring into a public trust.

In October, the company won a temporary shield from lawsuits through Nov. 6 as it moved through the initial stages of the restructuring process. At the time, Purdue offered up a massive "global" settlement valued at up to $12 billion to resolve thousands of opioid lawsuits it faces.

As part of the proposed deal, Purdue's billionaire founding family, the Sacklers, would chip in $3 billion.

Pausing litigation against the Sacklers has been a point of contention for plaintiffs who tentatively agreed to strike a deal with Purdue to wrap up thousands of lawsuits filed in a multidistrict litigation in Cleveland. In a September deposition from Purdue’s bankruptcy filing, Jesse DelConte, a restructuring consultant for Purdue, said the Sacklers had transferred between $12 billion and $13 billion from the company over an undisclosed period.

In a series of court filings Oct. 4, plaintiffs called Purdue’s attempt to halt litigation as a “firebreak” strategy to shield the Sacklers’ wealth and accused the drugmaker of attempting to force the global settlement it aimed for.