Bard settles Ga. whistleblower suit for $48 million

A medical device company on Monday agreed to pay a $48.2 million settlement to resolve claims by a Georgia employee that it paid kickbacks to doctors and customers who bought radiation treatment for prostate cancer.

C.R. Bard Inc., which is headquartered in New Jersey and has offices in Covington, resolved a whistle-blower suit filed by the employee in 2006. The suit alleged that the company paid off doctors and hospitals to induce them to prescribe brachytherapy seeds, which are implanted in the prostate and deliver a dose of radiation to cancer cells.

The U.S. government joined the suit filed by Julie Darity, a former contracts administration officer for Bard. She complained about the kickbacks to her supervisors and through the company’s internal compliance system before filing suit, her lawyers said.

“I was following the company’s ethics policy when I complained about all of the enticements sales reps were offering customers to get them to buy the brachytherapy seeds,” Darity said in a statement. “Rather than stopping these sales tactics, the company continued to allow sales reps to offer inducements and rewarded them very generously.”

Darity will receive $10.1 million as her share of the settlement.

“Illegal kickbacks in any form pervert our health care system, which is designed to insure that health care providers make decisions based solely on what is best for the patient,” Sally Yates, the U.S. Attorney in Atlanta, said.

Bard is pleased to settle the claims, Scott Lowry, a company spokesman, said in a statement.

“This resolution allows the company to put this matter behind it and continue to focus on delivering life-enhancing medical devices and technologies to patients around the world,” he said. “We remain committed to continuously enhancing and improving our compliance programs in accordance with industry standards.”

Bard employed its kickback scheme from 1998 to 2006, federal prosecutors said. The company gave grants, guaranteed minimum rebates, conference fees and free medical equipment to customers and physicians who used the seeds to treat prostate cancer.

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