Between 2006 and 2017, according to the Justice Department, Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc., billed Medicare, Medicaid and other government healthcare programs for hundreds of thousands of insulin pens that it knowingly dispensed to people who did not need them. The nationwide pharmacy has agreed to pay $209.2 million to settle the government’s claims.
Additionally, Walgreens was accused of overcharging Medicaid between 2008 and 2017 by failing to disclose and charge the discounted drug rates it offered to the general public. For failing to offer Medicaid patients the lowest rate, it defrauded the government and will pay an additional $60 million.
These allegations were originally brought forward by two pharmacist-whistleblowers acting under the federal False Claims Act. Under the Act, private citizens are allowed to sue on the government’s behalf when they have evidence of fraud or abuse in government contracts. When the cases are successful, the whistleblowers are given a percentage of any monetary recovery as a reward. The percentage is generally between 15 and 30 percent.
According to Reuters, the settlement agreements state that Walgreens “admits, acknowledges, and accepts responsibility” for the fraudulent activity. However, in a statement Walgreens said it “has admitted no wrongdoing.” Instead, it claimed that it had settled the allegations in the best interest of patients, customers and other stakeholders.
In addition to paying the $269.2 million, Walgreens also entered into a corporate integrity agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General. The agreement will help ensure the pharmacy’s compliance with federal healthcare program rules in the future.
As we mentioned, the allegations against Walgreens were first brought forward by two whistleblowers. They could be rewarded by between $30 million and $80.76 million.
If you work in healthcare, military contracting, the financial services industry or any area where government contracts are common, you may be in a position to blow the whistle on fraud or illegality in government contracting. Before you do so, consult with an attorney experienced in whistleblower law to limit your exposure to retaliation and to protect your right to recovery.