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Tidy Little Payday for Qui Tam Whistleblower

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Washington, DCA qui tam whistleblower recently collected $176,000 as her share of the settlement after filing a lawsuit against Cochlear Americas on behalf of the federal government. In 2004 Brenda March brought the lawsuit against the implant manufacturer for allegedly paying illegal remuneration to health care providers in an effort to induce purchases of cochlear implant systems.

According to the 6/10/10 issue of US Fed News, the overall settlement is worth $880,000.

Cochlear Americas is a subsidiary of Australian-based Cochlear Limited.

March originally filed her lawsuit six years ago in the District Court of Colorado. She alleged that Cochlear Americas violated provisions in the Anti-Kickback Act and False Claims Act by paying kickbacks to physicians who prescribed Cochlear devices for Medicare and Medicaid patients.

The United States intervened three years later and subsequently moved to stay the suit while pursuing an administrative civil monetary penalties investigation against Cochlear.

"[The June 9] actions demonstrate that the United States will not tolerate the payment of kickbacks by any entity involved in providing medical goods and services to beneficiaries of federal health care programs," said Assistant Attorney General Tony West, head of the Justice Department's Civil Division.

David Gaouette, US Attorney for the District of Colorado, echoed those sentiments: "This office is determined to protect the integrity of the Medicare and Medicaid programs for the citizens of Colorado and of the United States."

The False Claims Act permits private citizens who possess knowledge of fraud against the United States government to bring a lawsuit on behalf of the US.

The settlement eventually came about through the coordinated efforts of the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Justice Department's Civil Division; the US Attorney's Office for the District of Colorado, Affirmative Civil Enforcement Unit; and the US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Counsel to the Inspector General and Office of Investigations.

The US Justice Department announced the settlement on June 9. As the qui tam litigant in the case, March was entitled to a share in any recovery. Under the terms of the civil settlement, she receives $176,000.

Provisions within the Federal Whistleblower Act protect whistleblowers from retaliation when they stand up to suspected fraud.

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READER COMMENTS

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Brenda March's whistleblower case is just the first of many against Cochlear Americas, which has used illegal payoffs to physicians and hospitals for three-quarters of the cochlear implant market for over two decades. Its Partners Program was one of the most egregious examples of kickbacks in the industry, as it rewarded physicians with points towards free products if they implanted Cochlear devices, while subtracted points everytime the physicans implanted a competitor's!


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