BENTON -- An opioid lawsuit against drug maker UCB and retailer CVS that a U.S. attorney moved to dismiss for allegedly wasting the government’s time has been reassigned to Magistrate Judge Mark A. Beatty of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.
The case had previously been assigned to Magistrate Judge Donald Wilkerson and was reassigned on Jan. 8.
U.S. attorney Nathan Stump moved to dismiss the suit on Dec.17, along with 10 other false claim suits filed in eight districts.
Stump wrote that the allegations conflicted with important policy and enforcement prerogatives of federal health care programs.
The claims “would undermine common industry practices the federal government has determined are, in this particular case, appropriate and beneficial to federal health care programs and their beneficiaries,” Stump wrote.
Stump alleges that attorneys in the fraud section of the civil division of the Department of Justice spent 1,500 hours investigating claims implicating more than 73 million prescriptions written by hundreds of thousands of physicians for millions of beneficiaries. The hours spent investigating the claims didn’t include the time of other government attorneys, law enforcement agents, investigators and auditors.
Richard Burke of Highland Park, former class action lawyer at Tom Lakin’s Wood River firm, sued UCB and CVS in Southern Illinois.
Burke sought to recover treble damages from alleged unlawful marketing schemes, plus civil penalties and restitution to the U.S. and 27 states.
Burke wrote that UCB provided free services to providers to induce them to recommend Cimzia – a drug that works to prevent inflammation that may result from an overactive immune system.
He argued pharmacies continued to submit claims to Medicare and Medicaid that were tainted by kickbacks, and providers didn’t necessarily prescribe Cimzia because they believed it would help their patients.
The suit alleged the defendants caused Medicare, Medicaid, and other government programs to disburse tens of millions of dollars they shouldn’t have paid.
UCB and CVS still haven’t answered the suit in Benton, where Wilkerson granted them seven extensions last year.
The motion to dismiss awaits ruling form District Judge Staci Yandle.