Everest Principals, on behalf of the US government and over half of the states, filed an amended complaint on Thursday in their anti-kickback case against Abbott Labs. The complaint alleged a scheme of kickbacks to doctors and hospitals to boost usage of their MitraClip device, used in heart procedures.
The MitraClip is a medical device used in procedures to repair leaks to the mitral valve. Its origins lie with Dr. Mehmet Oz, now a television personality, whose company still retains title to the underlying patents.
The plaintiff is a single-member LLC,. a former employee of Abbott who has personal knowledge of the alleged schemes and false claims, the complaint explained. They alleged violations of both the False Claims Act and the Anti-Kickback Statute. According to the complaint, Abbott carried out studies to demonstrate the effectiveness of the MitraClip, but even when those studies did not show it as the most effective treatment, “Abbott targeted referral physicians, and provided them only with the positive results of studies in order to persuade the implanting physicians” to use the device.
Specific incentives provided to doctors and hospitals described by the complaint include referrals, free marketing, meals, parties, and cash payments in connection with “sham speaker and patient-practice building events,” and the promise of lucrative studies.
The case enumerates 31 counts against the defendant, including the aforementioned federal violations and numerous state claims. The plaintiff is requesting damages, including treble damages due to the federal government, as well as civil penalties for each false claim made.