CHICAGO, March 18 /PRNewswire/ -- CVS Corporation, which claims to be
America's largest pharmacy chain, has paid nearly $37 million to settle the
nation's first retail pharmacy drug switching case. CVS allegedly charged
the government up to 400 percent more for Medicaid patients by illegally
changing generic Zantac(R) prescriptions from tablets to higher priced
capsules, according to a multi-state complaint pursued by whistleblower
attorneys Michael I. Behn and Linda Wyetzner.
The federal Complaint and Settlement Agreement unsealed today in the
Northern District of Illinois stated that CVS garnered huge profits by
evading federal and state price ceilings when it unlawfully switched dosage
forms. Twenty-four states also entered separate settlements with the
company, Behn and Wyetzner said.
The generic form of the antacid Zantac, ranitidine, typically comes in
tablets. Given the drug's popularity, the government set maximum prices
that Medicaid would pay for tablets, while infrequently prescribed
ranitidine capsules had no maximum prices. When CVS switched patients'
prescriptions from ranitidine tablets to the expensive capsules, it cost
taxpayers up to 400 percent more, according to court documents.
This CVS case was pursued under federal and state False Claims Acts for
more than five years by Illinois pharmacist Bernard Lisitza, the relator,
and his Chicago attorneys, Behn and Wyetzner. "Bernie's your old-fashioned
corner pharmacist who was alarmed by what he saw happening at CVS," said
Behn. "It would have been easy for him to look the other way and let CVS's
switching continue, at taxpayers' expense. Today's result is a vindication
of a dedicated pharmacist's concern for his patients and all Americans who
underwrite the costs of Medicaid."
The CVS case was spearheaded by "tough state prosecutors throughout the
country," Behn added. "They stand ready, willing and able to take on big
new cases. Lisa Madigan here in Illinois, Martha Coakley in Massachusetts,
Marc Dann in Ohio, and other state Attorneys General have made health care
fraud prosecutions a top priority, and this case is one of the results."
Patrick Keenan, Deputy Attorney General of Illinois, Robert Patten and
Peter Clark, Assistant Attorneys General of Massachusetts, and John
Guthrie, Director of the Ohio Attorney General's Health Care Fraud Unit led
the multi-state team, along with federal prosecutor Linda Wawzenski in
The CVS $36.7 million settlement is another in a string of successful
qui tam whistleblower cases brought by Behn & Wyetzner, Chartered. In 2006,
Behn represented a pharmacist in a False Claims Act case against Omnicare
for switching drug dosage forms which resulted in a settlement of more than
$50 million. In 2005, Behn represented the plaintiffs in the largest
whistleblower settlement in Illinois and the largest whistleblower
settlement in Chicago, in which Northrop Grumman paid $134 million to
resolve claims involving the B-2 "Stealth" bomber. Behn has also
represented the American Association of Retired Persons ("AARP") before the
Illinois Supreme Court in upholding the constitutionality of the Illinois
False Claims Act.
In executing the Settlement Agreement, CVS denied liability, wrongdoing
or improper conduct.
Contact: Michael I. Behn, Esq. 312-629-0000
United States ex rel. Bernard Lisitza v. CVS Corporation, Northern
District of Illinois 03C00742C
SOURCE PRforLAW, LLC