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Key Takeaways from CMS’s Final Rule Requiring the Disclosure of Affiliates during Provider Enrollment

September 12, 2019 | Blog | By Daryl Berke, Sarah Beth Kuyers, Karen Lovitch

The Centers for Medicare & Medicare Services (CMS) recently published a final rule with comment period (the “Final Rule”) that is designed to increase CMS’s ability to identify and prevent bad actors from participating in Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP. Providers and suppliers should take note because implementation will be costly and burdensome. Among other things, the Final Rule requires the disclosure of certain provider and supplier affiliations and permits CMS to revoke or deny enrollment where those affiliations pose an undue risk of fraud and abuse. The Final Rule also grants CMS several additional authorities to revoke or deny a provider’s Medicare enrollment and increases the duration of such revocations and denials. The Final Rule takes effect on November 4, 2019. Comments on the Final Rule are due by 5:00 p.m. on that same day.
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On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit issued its long-awaited and closely watched decision in United States v. AseraCare Inc.. The court ruled that a claim cannot be deemed false under the False Claims Act (FCA) based on a difference in clinical judgment.  Instead, there must be proof of an objective falsehood. More than three years have passed since the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama issued the series of rulings that gave rise to the Eleventh Circuit case. 
Practice Intro Health Care Enforcement Investigations Mintz
On August 8, 2019, FDA issued a notice on its medical device recall database that a company called Opternative, Inc. had initiated a recall for the Visibly Online Refractive Vision Test, a software application offered directly to consumers. This represents a recent example of FDA taking enforcement action against a telemedicine software company that ultimately resulted in removal of the app from commercial distribution.
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Looks like the Drug Pricing Disclosure Rule may not have seen its last day in court. On August 21, 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) filed a notice of appeal against a federal judge’s decision to block an HHS final rule that would require drugmakers to disclose product list prices within consumer-directed television advertisements for certain prescription drugs.
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Open Payments Program Expansion

August 12, 2019 | Blog | By Brian Dunphy, Rachel Yount

On July 30, 2019, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced more proposed changes to the Open Payments Program, otherwise known as the Sunshine Act. The proposed changes include new requirements that are expected to impose burdens on pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers.
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In Policy Reversal, HHS and FDA Propose Plan to Import Foreign Drugs

August 8, 2019 | Blog | By Benjamin Zegarelli

On July 31, 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) jointly published a proposal, called the Safe Importation Action Plan, to allow certain entities to import drugs from foreign entities. While this development was not a surprise given President Trump’s campaign promises to lower drug prices by, among other things, removing barriers to drug product importation, it represents a stark departure from prior agency positions that the importation of drugs could not be adequately verified as safe and would not lead to significant cost reductions.
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In June 2019, the Delaware Supreme Court issued a decision reaffirming a risk of director liability where there is no board-level reporting process for essential compliance matters.  The facts of the case arise from a 2015 listeria outbreak at Blue Bell manufacturing which resulted in the death of three people. The Delaware case reaffirmed the position that directors may be subject to liability if the director “(1) completely fail[ed] to implement any reporting or information system or controls, or (2) having implemented such a system or controls, consciously fail[ed] to monitor or oversee its operations thus disabling themselves from being informed of risks or problems requiring their attention.”  
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On June 26, 2019, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on how HIPAA allows health plans to share protected health information (PHI). The FAQs pose two questions: (1) whether HIPAA permits one health plan to share PHI about individuals in common with a second health plan for care coordination purposes; and (2) whether HIPAA permits health plans to use and disclose PHI to inform individuals about other health plans that it offers, without the individuals’ authorization, if the health plan received the PHI for a different purpose. The former answer is an affirmative “yes,” and the latter is a qualified answer of “yes, in certain circumstances.”
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The Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently dismissed a relator’s False Claims Act (“FCA”) case under the pre-Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) version of the public disclosure bar. The court decided in U.S. ex rel. Denis v. Medco that to escape the FCA’s public disclosure bar by qualifying as an “original source” under the pre-ACA version of the FCA, a relator must have first-hand, non-derivative knowledge of conduct giving rise to the FCA claim.
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Federal Judge Strikes Down HHS Drug Pricing Disclosure Rule

July 9, 2019 | Blog | By Elizabeth Conti

In follow-up to our previous post, the pharmaceutical industry gained a win on July 8th when a federal judge struck down the Trump administration’s rule that would have required drugmakers to include list prices for drugs in TV ads.
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Last week, President Trump signed an “Executive Order on Improving Price and Quality Transparency in American Healthcare to Put Patients First.” The order, which “seeks to enhance the ability of patients to choose the healthcare that is best for them,” includes a number of provisions requiring the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, Treasury and others to pass regulations to increase transparency for patients. The following is a summary of the executive order and a brief overview of what providers and others in the healthcare industry can anticipate going forward.
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Pharmaceutical Companies Object to HHS Drug Pricing Disclosure Rule

July 1, 2019 | Blog | By Joanne Hawana, Elizabeth Conti

Several parties from the pharmaceutical industry have teamed up with an advertising association to file a lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to prevent a new drug pricing disclosure rule from going into effect. The legal challenge was filed on June 14, 2019 and takes issue with a final rule adopted by HHS on May 8, 2019 (which we previously blogged about here) that purports to provide consumers with information regarding the price of prescription drugs. However, opponents to the HHS rule counter that the opposite will occur and that it will actually mislead patients about the price of prescription drugs. This point may not be difficult for the plaintiffs to demonstrate in support of their request for a declaratory judgment that the rule is unlawful, since even HHS has admitted in the final rule preamble that the new requirement may “discourage patients from using beneficial medications, reduce access, and potentially increase total cost of care.”
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Insys Bankruptcy Filing Immediately After Global Settlement Triggers Powerful Remedies

June 25, 2019 | Blog | By Samantha Kingsbury, Laurence Freedman

Over the last two years, much of the healthcare world has been watching the government’s prosecution of Insys Therapeutics for its sales and marketing practices related to its Subsys spray.  Subsys is powerful and highly addictive fentanyl spray (administered under the tongue) that was approved by the FDA in 2012 for the treatment of persistent breakthrough pain in adult cancer patients who were already receiving, and tolerant to, regular opioid therapy.  On June 5, 2019, DOJ announced a global resolution with Insys, including criminal pleas, a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA), a civil settlement agreement, and a Corporate Integrity Agreement (CIA).  Then, on June 10, 2019, Insys filed for bankruptcy protection, which triggered DOJ and HHS’s ability to upend these agreements and impose powerful criminal, civil, and exclusion remedies against Insys. While much of the coverage of this case over the last few years has focused on the high-profile prosecution and conviction of company executives (including Insys’s founder) and other employees who were accused of paying kickbacks to prescribers in exchange for increased prescriptions and increased doses of Subsys, the resolution of this case on the corporate side has proven to be equally fascinating. 
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Heritage Pharmaceuticals Admits to Generic Drug Price Fixing Scheme

June 13, 2019 | Blog | By Michelle Caton, Farrah Short

In the latest development in the Department of Justice (DOJ) Antitrust Division’s ongoing investigation into the generic pharmaceutical industry, Heritage Pharmaceuticals, Inc. has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with DOJ. The terms of the DPA require Heritage to pay a $225,000 criminal penalty and provide full cooperation with the ongoing investigation. The one-count felony charge, filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on May 30, alleges that Heritage violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act by conspiring with multiple unnamed parties to divide up the domestic market and fix prices for glyburide, a diabetes medication, from April 2014 through December 2015. According to DOJ, the DPA provides that the United States will not prosecute Heritage for three years.
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OIG Issues Fraud Alert Regarding Fraudulent Genetic Testing Schemes

June 5, 2019 | Blog | By Karen Lovitch, Matt Mora

Earlier this week the OIG took the somewhat unusual step of issuing a fraud alert directed to Medicare beneficiaries (rather than to Medicare providers) regarding “fraud schemes” that involve genetic testing. According to the OIG, beneficiaries are being offered genetic tests in order to obtain their Medicare information, which is then used to commit identity theft or to submit fraudulent claims to Medicare. Beneficiaries are being targeted through telemarketing calls, booths at public events, health fairs, and door-to-door visits.

CMS Finalizes Medicare Advantage and Part D Drug Pricing Rule

May 28, 2019 | Blog | By Bridgette Keller, Daryl Berke, Lauren Moldawer

Earlier this month, CMS issued a final rule aimed at lowering drug prices and reducing out-of-pocket expenses in Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D. This rule is the Administration’s latest effort to address prescription drug prices and builds off the Administration’s Blueprint to Lower Drug Prices and Reduce Out-of-Pocket Costs and arrive on the heels of CMS publishing a rule requiring the disclosure of drug prices in TV ads. Below we’ve provided a brief overview of the major provisions in the final rule, noting changes from the proposed rule that was issued in November 2018.
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FDA Ratchets Up Pressure on Homeopathic Drug Manufacturers

May 23, 2019 | Blog | By Benjamin Zegarelli

On May 14, FDA announced that it issued five Warning Letters to companies that manufacture and market homeopathic drugs for human use. The letters all cite cGMP deficiencies relating to inspectional observations and conclude that the products are misbranded prescription drugs under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act because “in light of their toxicity or other potentiality for harmful effect, or the method of their use, or the collateral measures necessary to their use, they are not safe for use except under the supervision of a practitioner licensed by law to administer such drugs” and they are not labeled for prescription use only.

In 2019 so far, FDA has issued Warning Letters to eleven separate homeopathic drug manufacturers, including the five letters referenced above. All of the Warning Letters, except one, cite observations from inspections and focus on cGMP and quality violations at the manufacturing facilities, including contamination and varying amounts of active ingredients, that could lead to consumer harm.
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FCA Defendant Abandons Petition Before the Supreme Court

May 22, 2019 | | By Samantha Kingsbury, Brian Dunphy

This latest installment in our ongoing coverage of the Polukoff False Claims Act (FCA) qui tam case might be one of our last posts about the case. Last week, Intermountain Health Care, Inc. and IHC Health Services, Inc. d/b/a Intermountain Medical Center (Intermountain), one of the hospital defendants in this matter, which had previously filed a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court on issues relevant to this case (as we reported in February), filed an Unopposed Motion to Dismiss before the high court.
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FCA Relator and U.S. Weigh in on Defendants' Argument that the FCA is Unconstitutional

May 9, 2019 | Blog | By Samantha Kingsbury, Brian Dunphy

As part of our ongoing discussion of the Polukoff False Claims Act (FCA) qui tam case (involving allegations that certain heart procedures performed by a cardiologist, and billed for by two hospital defendants, were not medically necessary), we reported in February that some defendants filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court. 
Viewpoint General
Yesterday, May 8, 2019, the Centers for Medicaid & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) released its final rule requiring drug manufacturers to disclose a drug’s wholesale acquisition cost (“WAC”) in direct-to-consumer television advertisements. The rule, which will become final 60 days after the official publication of the rule (which will be tomorrow, May 10, 2019) was proposal last fall. CMS is largely adopting the rule as published last fall with minor technical changes for clarification
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