ATLANTA - A pharmaceutical company with locations in Georgia is forced to pay a $4.6 million settlement for allegedly charging the government higher prices than "usual and customary" prices charged to other patients.
The Department of Justice said Curant, Inc., which owns pharmacies in Smyrna, agreed to pay $4.6 million to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act. The company allegedly dispensed compound pain creams and scar creams to TRICARE beneficiaries, which provides health insurance to members of the military and their families.
In a suit filed by Dennis Long, a former pharmacist at Curant’s Georgia pharmacy, the government alleges in a lawsuit Curant charged TRICARE a higher price for its compound creams than it offered to its cash-paying patients between 2013 and 2015.
"Pharmacies cannot overcharge government healthcare programs while offering cheaper prices to others, in violation of their payor agreements," said Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt Erskine. "Such actions undermine efforts to protect government healthcare plans and keep costs lower."
The DOJ said Curant Health Georgia LLC and Curant Health Florida LLC, owned by Patrick Dunham, Scott Zepp, Marc O’Connor, and Pankajkumar Patel.
"The FBI is committed to protecting the health and safety of the American taxpayer," said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. "Healthcare providers that take shortcuts to increase their financial bottom line must be held accountable for improper and illegal billings that increase the cost of medical care."
The suit also claims Curant provided preferential treatment to a third-party company. The government claims Curant arranged for doctors to send the company prescriptions, waived patient copayments, submitted claims to TRICARE for compound creams that were unnecessary and failed to return overpayments that it had received from TRICARE.
"This settlement serves as a warning to those companies and individuals who seek to take advantage of the Department of Defense (DoD) health care program," stated Special Agent in Charge Cynthia A. Bruce of the DoD, Office of Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), Southeast Field Office. "DCIS and our investigative partners are committed to fully investigating allegations of fraud, waste and abuse which jeopardize our military families’ precious healthcare resources."
The Department of Justice said there has been no determination of liability.