A Congressional field hearing is scheduled to take place on March 30 to look into whistleblower claims of prescription drug abuse at a Veterans Affairs medical center in Tomah, WI. The whistleblower report, which was at first hidden by the VA Inspector General, reveals a high rate of prescriptions for high-dose opiates like morphine. Several deaths are also under investigation at the medical center.
A clinical review found that patients at the Tomah VA medical center were 2.5 times more likely to be prescribed high-dose opiates than VA patients elsewhere in the nation. The review further revealed that Tomah VA patients were twice as likely to be prescribed benzodiazepines and opioids at the same time—a combination known to result in health complications.
Congressman Sean Duffy (R-WI) has commented on the emerging scandal: “When you have higher doses and you don’t have certain procedures and policies in place when prescribing opiates, you can have disastrous results so yes it is concerning. Especially when the community knows what is going on. When they call Tomah candy land and this one doctor the candy man it is well known that he is a prescriber of opiate drugs.”
Investigators expect additional evidence of mismanagement to come to light during the hearings, and say the outcomes of the investigation will serve to guide future legislative oversight of VA medical centers.
Through whistleblower and qui tam lawsuits, citizens can combine efforts with government agencies to expose misconduct, malpractice, and illegal activity in organizations. Recently, the pharmaceutical giant Daiichi Sankyo was forced to pay $39 million in damages and penalties after an ex-employee filed a whistleblower report against the company. The report led to an investigation that found Daiichi Sankyo guilty of giving out exorbitant speaker program fees and lavish meals to doctors and physicians in return for recommending or selling their drugs Azor, Welchol, Tribenzor, and Benicar.
If you are aware of an organization promoting off-label use of products, making false claims, or jeopardizing patient health, you may want to consult an attorney about a whistleblower lawsuit. Contact the lawyers at Lopez McHugh for a free consultation, and determine whether you would like to pursue a whistleblower or qui tam lawsuit.