The Justice Department announced that Abiomed, Inc. agreed to pay $3.1 million to resolve allegations it violated the False Claims Act by purchasing extravagant meals for physicians to induce them to use Abiomed’s Impella line of heart pumps.
“We expect today’s settlement with Abiomed to serve as a warning to medical device manufacturers who try to improperly influence the treatment decisions of physicians,” said United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling. “Providing doctors with lavish meals, or meals that focus on entertainment rather than education or science, can impair a physician’s independent medical judgment – something each and every patient is entitled to. My office will continue to investigate sales practices that interfere with that independent medical judgment and that heighten the risk of improper use of limited federal healthcare dollars.”
“Health care companies seeking to boost profits by wining and dining physicians must be held accountable,” said Special Agent in Charge Phillip Coyne with the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Lavish dinners can undermine impartial medical decision-making of physicians, drive up health care costs, and reduce the public’s trust in federal government health plans.”
The settlement announced stems from a complaint filed by a former Abiomed employee under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act. The law allows private citizens, known as relators, to bring a lawsuit on the government’s behalf, rewarding them with a significant portion of the government’s recovery (between 15% and 30%). The Abiomed whistleblower will receive $542,500 of the settlement.
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