If you are a pharmacist, who ran your own drug distribution company, which was busted in 1992 for purchasing drugs that did not have intact safety seals, manufacturers’ boxes and packaging inserts with the intent of reselling to the public, what would you do next?
Well, if you were Bernard Lisitza, you would appeal the suspension of your license and go to work as a substitute pharmacist, placed by a temporary agency at drugstores that are short-staffed. From there, you’d become a professional whistle blower.
Lisitza is the man behind the $35 million dollar settlement Walgreens agreed to pay to Tennessee and 41 other states last week in order to settle allegations that the company defrauded Medicaid by switching prescriptions.
Last month, CVS agreed to shell out $36.7 million dollars to settle similar allegations. And in 2006, Omnicare Inc., a leading supplier of drugs to nursing homes, paid $49.5 million to settle allegations of overcharging Medicare.
All three whistleblower lawsuits were filed by Lisitza and his Chicago attorney Michael I. Behn under federal and state False Claims Acts.
According to Behn: “Bernie’s your old-fashioned corner pharmacist, who was shocked by a profits over patients approach,” said Behn. “This was the first case targeting generic drug switching under the False Claims Act, to help protect both patients and taxpayers,” Behn added. “The switching covered by this settlement affected the most vulnerable segment of our population – the elderly, the sick and the poor. Doctors should be selecting their medications, not a Fortune 500 company.”
The lawsuits have resulted in the successful recovery of approximately 100-million gubment dollars. And under qui tam provisions, `Ol Bernie has been awarded about 15.7 million for his efforts.