(CN) - Omnicare Inc., the nation's largest provider of pharmacy services to nursing homes, solicited tens of millions of dollars in kickbacks from Abbott Laboratories, the U.S. Justice Department claims.
In a complaint filed in Abingdon, Va. Federal Court, the government asserts Omnicare received the kickbacks over a 10-year period for recommending Abbott's Depakota prescription drug to nursing homes hoping to reduce agitation and outbursts among their elderly dementia patients.
The False Claims Act lawsuit Omnicare's pharmacists reviewed nursing home patients' charts on a regular basis during the years in question, and made recommendations to physicians on the drugs that should be prescribed to their patients.
According to the government it then used the influence it held over these physicians to solicit kickbacks disguised as rebates, educational grants, and other corporate financial support.
"By knowingly and actively soliciting kickbacks to promote Depakote, Omnicare enhanced its profits at the expense of the elderly nursing home residents it purported to protect and caused the Medicaid and Medicare programs to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for claims that should not have been paid," the complaint says.
As a result of the alleged illicit dealings, sales of Depakote to federal healthcare programs increased from less than $3 million in 1998 to over $92 million in 2008.
The government is seeking to recover treble damages, restitution, and civil penalties under the False Claims Act.
The lawsuit was filed by Acting U.S. Attorney Anthony P. Giorno of Roanoke, Va.
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