Pfizer Pharma Settlement Nets Whistleblowers $102 Million

by Kurt Schulzke

On September 2, 2009, the Justice Department announced the historic  $2.3 billion settlement of its Medicare and Medicaid fraud case against Pfizer and its subsidiary Pharmacia & Upjohn Company.  The lawsuit stemmed from Pfizer’s practice of marketing its drugs for off-label uses.

Individual whistleblowers — known as “relators” in a qui tam whistleblower suit — often play a starring role in triggering major fraud investigations.  The Pfizer case began with six different whistleblowers who filed False Claims Act qui tam suits in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Kentucky.  Together, they will share $102 million of the federal government’s recovery.  Their share of State Medicaid recoveries will be negotiated separately.

Many successful whisteblower cases are much smaller (or begin much smaller) than the Pfizer case.  If you are in the know in what you think is a small case, keep in mind that great oak trees grow from small acorns.  This much is certain: With growing amounts of government money flowing into the economy in the form of economic stimulus, fraud will proliferate.

What the intial whistleblower sees of the fraud may be only the acorn or, to mix metaphors, the tip of the iceberg.  With their civil investigative powers, the federal government (and many states) can get access to the whole picture.

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