Lawsuit seeks more than $4B taxpayer recovery for Tamiflu false claims
BALTIMORE – Tamiflu-maker Hoffman-La Roche (OTCMKTS – RHHBY) must answer to whistleblower charges that it falsified claims of Tamiflu’s effectiveness in fighting influenza and fraudulently induced the federal government to stockpile millions of doses for a feared flu pandemic, a federal judge in Maryland ruled Monday.
In rejecting Roche’s request to dismiss the lawsuit filed under the False Claims Act, U.S. District Judge George L. Russell III ruled that Roche’s marketing and alleged false statements about the efficacy of Tamiflu (oseltamivir) as alleged by whistleblower Dr. Thomas Jefferson were material and capable of influencing the government’s purchasing decisions.
According to the lawsuit, Roche falsified scientific conclusions and mounted a high-powered marketing and lobbying campaign to win government contracts. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration previously warned Roche that its data did not support those claims and that such statements were misleading. Despite that, federal and state governments spent more than $1.4 billion to stockpile Tamiflu between 2005 and 2009. Roche is vulnerable to a judgment in excess of $4 billion because the False Claims Act mandates payment of triple damages, plus civil penalties.
“We were confident that the court would deny the motion and are excited to present these compelling facts to a jury,” said whistleblower lawyer Clayton Halunen of Minnesota-based Halunen Law. “We are particularly pleased that the court applied the proper standard for materiality—whether a defendant’s false statements are capable of influencing the government’s payment decisions.”
Dr. Jefferson, the whistleblower, is a public health researcher affiliated with the respected global Cochrane Collaboration research network. He began questioning Tamiflu’s effectiveness in 2009 and spearheaded efforts to have the company release underlying clinical study data. After finally obtaining the data in 2013, Dr. Jefferson concluded that the clinical data did not support Roche’s claims.
“The False Claims Act has important safeguards to protect taxpayers and prevent unscrupulous corporations from making false claims to win government contracts,” said trial lawyer Chris Gadoury of The Lanier Law Firm in Houston. “This case is more important than ever as our government responds to the desperate need to stockpile protective equipment and supplies for the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The case is United States of America, ex rel. Thomas Jefferson v Hoffman-La Roche Inc. et al. In the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. Case No. 14-CV-03665.
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