WASHINGTON – The nation's largest drugmakers have paid at least $8 billion in fines for repeatedly defrauding Medicare and Medicaid over the past decade, but they remain in business with the federal government because they are often the sole suppliers of critical products, records show.
"We're seeing some of the big companies a second and third time," said Gregory Demske, assistant inspector general for legal affairs for Health and Human Services. "The corporate integrity agreement is not sufficient to deter further misconduct."
In addition, the cases are labor- and cost-intensive as the companies fight often for years to avoid an exclusion, Demske said.
To try to change that trend, the government announced in 2010 that, rather than exclude an entire company, investigators would go after individuals within a company. Demske said his organization, the Justice Department and the Food and Drug Administration have come up with some ideas to use within the scope of the rules — such as taking away a company's patent rights as a condition of a settlement. That could begin with cases being investigated now, he said.