Through a Qui Tam case involving a company named Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc., whistleblower Robert Heiden, a former sales representative for Boehringer, received over $17 million for bringing up the case.
Boehringer promoted Aggrenox, Atrovent, Combivent and Micardis – medical drugs – and prescribed them for the incorrect treatment and in incorrect doses. Health care professionals would buy the drugs and receive reimbursement for them from government health care programs and, sometimes, receive kickbacks from Boehringer. Kickbacks are against the Anti-Kickbacks Statute and, thus, against the False Claims Act.
The FDA permitted the drug Aggrenox for uses involving the avoidance of secondary strokes. Boehringer prescribed Aggrenox for myocardial infarction and peripheral vascular disease. Doctors are permitted to prescribe drugs for other uses than what the FDA approves, but Boehringer is not allowed to sell them for those specific uses.
Combivent is FDA approved to treat the symptoms of bronchospasm in COPD patients on a bronchodilator, while Boehringer promoted Combivent for use before implementing a bronchodilator in the patient.
Boehringer also sold Micardis to treat diabetic kidney disease while it is approved by the FDA to treat hypertension.
Combivent and Atrovent were sold by Boehringer at dosages that surpassed what is covered by health care programs. In addition, Boehringer claimed that Aggrenox was better than Plavix. Though there is a possibility through research and study that this could be true, Boehringer isn’t allowed to make this claim.
Boehringer entered a Corporate Integrity Agreement with the government to establish steps and reviews of their behavior and to identify illegal acts similar to what cost them $95 million in the long run.