Vaccine Handling Claims to Cost McKesson $18M

     (CN) - McKesson Corp. will pay $18 million to resolve allegations over its alleged mishandling of vaccines under a shipping deal with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
     Friday's settlement arises from a complaint that McKesson Specialty Distribution's former finance director, Terrell Fox, filed under the False Claims Act in the Middle District of Tennessee.
     With intervention by the United States, the case accused San Francisco-based McKesson of shirking the shipping and handling requirements of its vaccine distribution contract with the CDC.
     CDC officials said redundant measures ensured that the vaccines at issue here remained at appropriate temperatures during shipping.
     Validated packing procedures and temperature monitors are two such measures that maintain proper vaccine temperatures, the CDC said.
     McKesson's contract required it receive vaccines that the government bought from manufacturers and then distribute them to health care providers.
     "The government alleged that the contract required McKesson to ensure that during shipping, the vaccines were maintained at proper temperatures by, among other things, including electronic temperature monitors set to detect when the air temperature in the box reached two degrees Celsius and below or eight degrees Celsius and above," the Justice Department said in a statement. "The government alleged that, from approximately April 2007 to November 2007, McKesson failed to set the monitors to the appropriate range, and as a result, knowingly submitted false claims to the CDC for shipping and handling services that did not satisfy its contractual obligations."
     A settlement of the qui tam action means that Fox will receive a share for his role as whistle-blower.
     The Justice Department called the settlement "another achievement for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative."
     "Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered a total of more than $20.2 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $14 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs," it added.