Florida based law firm of Freedland Russo publicly revealed the law firm that initiated the nation's largest federal whistleblower case to date, which was unsealed in Philadelphia on Thursday, January 15. As part of a settlement with the U.S. Attorney's Office, Eli Lilly & Company will pay out $1.4 billion in civil and criminal fines related to its illegal and fraudulent marketing of the highly profitable prescription drug Zyprexa.
West Hollywood, CA (PRWEB) January 16, 2009 -- The Weston-based law firm of Freedland Russo publicly revealed that it was the law firm that initiated the nation's largest federal whistleblower case to date, which was unsealed in Philadelphia on Thursday, January 15. As part of a settlement with the U.S. Attorney's Office, Eli Lilly & Company will pay out $1.4 billion in civil and criminal fines related to its illegal and fraudulent marketing of the highly profitable prescription drug Zyprexa, said firm partner Michael Freedland.
In 2003, six former employees of Eli Lilly contacted a lawyer at the firm and exposed the fact that the company was heavily promoting a popular anti-psychotic medication called Zyprexa, for off-label uses, or uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. By law, doctors can prescribe drugs for off-label uses, but pharmaceutical companies are not allowed to market and promote such uses. According to the firm's whistleblower lawsuit, Eli Lilly schemed to persuade doctors to prescribe Zyprexa to unruly nursing home patients to sedate them, knowing full well the drug was not FDA approved for that purpose. The lawsuit alleged Eli Lilly defrauded the federal government and state governments because Medicare and Medicaid routinely reimburse patients for Zyprexa. Zyprexa has produced billions in sales since it was approved in 1996, making it one of the top selling drugs worldwide according to published reports. Federal investigators found that 40% of all sales were attributed to off-label uses.
The "Whistleblower" statute, also known as the Civil False Claims Act, was put into effect to encourage people to come forward when they suspect their employer is defrauding the government. The statute allows them to remain anonymous while cooperating with authorities, and protects them from being harassed, demoted or terminated by their employer while an investigation is taking place. As an incentive to come forward, the law provides that whistleblowers can share in any money that is recovered in the lawsuit.
Freedland Russo's former partner, Gary Farmer, along with two other Pennsylvania law firms, filed the original whistleblower case in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in 2003. Subsequently, other whistleblowers filed separate lawsuits. Now, six years later, the seal has been lifted on the entire case and details were made public. As part of the settlement, Ely Lilly will pay out $800 million on the civil side and Freedland Russo clients will get paid from that recovery. Eighty million dollars alone will be paid from the federal share. Freedland Russo clients will also be paid on the states' share of the recovery. In addition, Eli Lilly has pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor criminal count for violating the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act between September 1999 and March 31, 2001, and for that, will pay a criminal fine of $615 million.
Freedland, whose firm represents clients in whistleblower, personal injury and wrongful death cases, said this case was about good old fashioned greed that robbed U.S. taxpayers and put fragile lives in jeopardy.
"Through a calculating marketing scheme, Eli Lilly defrauded Medicare and Medicaid to the tune of billions of dollars," Freedland said. "In addition, the company had a willful disregard for vulnerable senior citizens by pushing drugs on them that they had no business taking."
"We have laws and regulations in this country to protect the health and well being of our citizens," said firm partner Russo. "When big companies like Eli Lilly choose to break those rules just to fatten up their bottom lines, they put lives at risk. Luckily there were people within the company who witnessed this travesty and had courage to step forward and put an end to it. They are true heroes."
About Freedland Russo:
Freedland Russo is a law firm committed to assisting and fighting for consumers throughout Florida and nationally who have suffered social injustices at the hands of individuals, large corporations, and insurance companies. The firm is well known for handling complex cases involving matters of medical malpractice, pharmaceutical liability, automobile liability, wrongful death, and whistleblower cases. Freedland Russo is based in Weston, Florida and recently expanded to include offices in Los Angeles, and to provide services to the entertainment industry with the addition of entertainment lawyer, Joseph Bovino. For more information log on to www.westonlawyers.com or call 888.254.7066.
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