Abbott Laboratories has agreed to pay the United States $5.475 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by paying kickbacks to induce doctors to implant the company’s carotid, biliary and peripheral vascular products, the Department of Justice announced Dec. 27. 

“Patients have a right to treatment decisions that are based on their own medical needs, not the personal financial interests of their health care providers,” said Assistant Attorney General Stuart F. Delery of the Civil Division of the Department of Justice.  “Kickbacks undermine the ability of health care providers to objectively evaluate and treat their patients, and will continue to be a primary focus of the Department’s health care enforcement efforts.”  

The settlement resolves allegations originally brought in a lawsuit filed by Steven Peters and Douglas Gray, former Abbott employees. The suit alleged that Abbott knowingly paid prominent physicians for teaching assignments, speaking engagements and conferences with the expectation that these physicians would arrange for the hospitals with which they were affiliated to purchase Abbott’s carotid, biliary and peripheral vascular products.  As a result, the United States alleged Abbott violated the Anti-Kickback Act and caused the submission of false claims to Medicare for the procedures in which these Abbott products were used. Carotid and peripheral vascular products are used to treat circulatory disorders by increasing blood flow to the head and various parts of the body, respectively.  Biliary products are used to treat obstructions that occur in the bile ducts.

“Physicians should make decisions regarding medical devices based on what is in the best interest of patients without being induced by payments from manufacturers competing for their business,” said U.S. Attorney Bill Killian of the Eastern District of Tennessee.

“Offering financial inducements can distort health care decision-making,” said Special Agent in Charge Derrick L. Jackson of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General in Atlanta.  “OIG and our law enforcement partners vigilantly protect government health programs from such alleged abuses.”