Undoubtedly everyone reading Outliers today knows that many of the most serious federal actions against healthcare companies stem from allegations lodged by whistle-blowers empowered to file suit under the False Claims Act.
Outliers: Meet the 'X-Men of healthcare': Ven-A-Care
But how many know that the granddaddy of all whistle-blowers—dubbed the “X-Men of healthcare” by bloggers such as PharmaGossip—is a small HIV infusion storefront based in Key West, Fla.? Really? A medical infusion business in South Florida that fights against fraud?
Yes, Ven-A-Care of the Florida Keys is one of the most feared (and despised) names at some of the biggest drugmakers in the world, such as Abbott Laboratories and Bayer, both of which have paid settlements in Ven-A-Care whistle-blowing cases. The Los Angeles Times reported last week that Ven-A-Care has won settlements in at least 18 lawsuits since 2000, collecting more than $380 million as its share of the total $2.2 billion in settlements from those cases.
The Times said Ven-A-Care's tactics typically involve comparing the prices pharmacies pay for drugs with the prices that Medicare pays—and then filing suit when there's a large discrepancy. Critics contend the infusion business is essentially a front for a professional whistle-blowing operation, and therefore lacks the first-hand insider knowledge required of a true corporate whistle-blower.
“It's a bounty-hunting system,” a whistle-blower's attorney, Pat O'Connell of Austin, Texas, memorably told the Times in the Jan. 24 article. “There's no reason to sugarcoat it.”
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