SNR Denton partner Sean Cenawood, who joined the firm in 2010 after heading up the civil frauds unit and coordinating health care fraud prosecutions for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, has helped client GlaxoSmithKline fend off whistleblower claims over its marketing of the antidepressant Paxil.
Boston federal district court judge Nathaniel Gorton on Monday dismissed a qui tam suit brought against GSK and Infomedics, a pharmaceutical marketing company that helped GSK sell Paxil. The ruling is a loss for the Los Angeles firm Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman and Boston’s Roddy, Klein & Ryan.
In a 2008 complaint, Infomedics call center supervisor Arlene Tessitore alleged that a GSK program that purported to be a study into social phobias was really a marketing ploy to encourage physicians, through kickbacks, to prescribe Paxil. The complaint alleges that GSK paid physicians $100 for every one of their patients that took the study and generated $150 million in new sales from the scheme. The whistleblower also alleged that Infomedics concealed reports to call centers of adverse events from Paxil use, including suicidal behavior and birth defects. According to Judge Gorton’s opinion, when Tessitore asked her supervisors if the calls should be reported, she was told that “GSK did not want to receive any such reports.”
Those claims, however, “fall short of the particularity requirement because [they suggest] only that fraud was possible,” Judge Gorton wrote in granting GSK and Infomedic’s motions to dismiss. “[The complaint] fails to provide any information concerning. . .any false claim that was submitted, including the date or amount of any such claims or the government program to which it was submitted,” the judge concluded.
“False Claims Act cases can often be very complex, especially when you have a whistleblower making a wide range of allegations, so our goal was to cut to the core of the claims,” SNR Denton’s Cenawood told the Litigation Daily. “These cases can hang out on a docket for a long time, so it’s gratifying here that we were able to get a final decision from the district court in only a little over a year since the case was unsealed.”
“We’re disappointed by the court’s ruling and exploring our options,” plaintiffs counsel Bijan Esfandiari of Baum Hedlund told us. Tessitore was originally represented by Nolan & Auerbach, which withdrew after the The government declined to intervene in the case in 2010.
The ruling is without prejudice to federal prosecutors, as the DOJ requested in a statement of interest last October.
The Boston firm Collora LLP represented Infomedics.