Omnicare, the largest nursing home pharmacy in the country based on the number of beds served, will pay $28.1 million to settle allegations that it requested and accepted kickbacks from Abbott Laboratories to promote the drugmaker's epilepsy drug Depakote to nursing home residents.
The U.S. Justice Department said on Monday that Omnicare allegedly hid the kickbacks by describing them as “grants” and “educational funding” from Abbott, but they were actually payments for increasing Depakote prescriptions in violation of the False Claims Act. Depakote is used to control behavioral disturbances in dementia patients, but that use has not been approved the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
CVS Health Corp. paid more than $10 billion for Omnicare in 2015, and the Justice Department acknowledged that CVS halted the alleged misconduct.
In May 2012, Abbott entered its own settlement with federal and state officials over the massive kickback scheme. The drugmaker paid $1.5 billion to resolve its liability under the False Claims Act. The scheme also involved the pharmacy company PharMerica, which paid $9.25 million in October 2015 for accepting kickbacks.
“It is disturbing that any health care corporation would pay kickbacks that corrupt the professional medical decision making process in order to pad their profits,” said Special Agent in Charge Nicholas DiGiulio of HHS' Office of Inspector General. “These practices are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
Omnicare's settlement marks the final resolution for two whistleblower lawsuits from former Abbott employees that unveiled the alleged kickback scheme. The U.S. Justice Department joined the cases in December 2014. The whistleblowers will receive $3 million from Omnicare's settlement.