"Omnicare Inc., the largest provider of pharmacy services to U.S. nursing homes, agreed to pay $49.5 million to settle claims by the U.S. government and 42 states that it overcharged them for drugs provided to senior citizens.
Omnicare substituted more expensive forms of generic versions of drugs including Zantac, an antacid, and Prozac, an antidepressant, to evade price limits for Medicaid reimbursement, said Michael Behn, a Chicago plaintiffs' attorney. The U.S. joined the false claims act suit after it was filed.
Omnicare defrauded the government by changing prescriptions for a popular antacid from tablets to capsules in order to inflate government reimbursements by as much as 400 percent, according to the lawsuit filed five years ago by Behn on behalf of Illinois pharmacist Bernard Lisitza.
While popularly prescribed tablet-forms of Ranitidine, a generic form of Zantac, are subject to federal price reimbursement limits, the capsule forms aren't, Behn said.
Omnicare was also accused in the complaint of swapping more expensive forms of two other drugs: Fluoxetine, a generic version of Prozac, and Buspirone, the generic version of the ant-anxiety medication Buspar. Some of the swaps were made without the knowledge of the patients' doctors, the Justice Department said.
``Those switches increased the price substantially while adding no medical benefit and violating federal and state regulations,'' Fitzgerald said in a statement.
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