Whistleblower Settles False Claims Act Suit Against Pharmaceutical Giant Celgene For $280 Million

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Southern California trial specialists Bienert, Miller & Katzman were among a team of lawyers who obtained the second largest settlement in history in a non-intervened qui tam case.

Pharmaceutical giant Celgene Corporation has agreed to pay $280 million to resolve claims brought by whistleblower Beverly Brown relating to the marketing and sale of Celgene’s blockbuster drugs, Thalomid and Revlimid. The settlement is the second largest recovery ever recorded in a non-intervened case brought under the federal False Claims Act.

The False Claims Act allows whistleblowers – known as “relators” – to bring suit in the name of the government against individuals or entities that caused the fraudulent or improper expenditure of government funds.

Ms. Brown is a former Celgene sales representative who, in 2010, filed suit against Celgene under the False Claims Act on behalf of the United States government and 29 states and municipalities.* Ms. Brown alleged that Celgene both illegally promoted Thalomid and Revlimid for uses that were off-label – i.e., not approved by the FDA – and paid illegal kickbacks to healthcare providers and others in an effort to increase the sales of its drugs.

After Ms. Brown filed suit in 2010, the case remained under seal for four years while the government investigated. In 2014, the government declined to intervene, leaving Ms. Brown to either dismiss the case or pursue it on her own. Ms. Brown elected to pursue the case on her own.

The case was thereafter one of the most extensively-litigated pharmaceutical cases ever brought under the False Claims Act. It involved the review of millions of documents, numerous discovery motions and potentially case dispositive motions, approximately 40 fact and expert depositions, and dozens of pre-trial motions. The parties collectively designated 17 expert witnesses, consisting of some of the nation’s leading experts in the fields of pharmaceutical economics, drug safety and medical ethics.

The parties reached a settlement after the trial court denied Celgene’s motion for summary judgment as to Ms. Brown’s off-label promotion claims and set the case for trial in mid-2017.

In addition to representing the second largest recovery in a non-intervened False Claims Act case, the $280 million settlement also marks the largest recovery involving a manufacturer of cancer drugs.

“We are thrilled to have been able to help obtain this outstanding result for both the government and, even more so, for our courageous client, Beverly Brown,” said Thomas H. Bienert, Jr. of Bienert, Miller & Katzman, PLC (“BMK”), one of the lawyers who represented Ms. Brown in the case. ”Beverly took a tremendous risk by speaking out about Celgene’s practices and has seen this case through seven long and stressful years of litigation.”

BMK partner Michael R. Williams added: “This case shows that one brave person can stand up for what is right and achieve justice.”

BMK partner Ariana Hawbecker also played a key role in the case.

In addition to BMK, Ms. Brown’s legal team included Washington, D.C.-based Guttman, Buschner & Brooks and Richard A. Harpootlian, P.A. of Columbia, South Carolina.

  • United States ex rel. Beverly Brown v. Celgene Corporation, Case No. 2:10-cv-03165-RGK-SS (United States District Court for the Central District of California)

SOURCE: Bienert, Miller & Katzman, PLC

About Bienert, Miller & Katzman, PLC

BMK is a San Clemente-based trial firm that consists of former federal and state prosecutors, federal public defenders, and large-firm trained attorneys who collectively have conducted hundreds of jury and court trials. The firm combines nationally-recognized expertise and relentless creativity with a boutique legal setting that ensures personalized attention to every client and case. The result in this case is the latest in a string of outstanding results for the firm’s clients, including both multi-million dollar recoveries and major defense victories.  BMK continues to advocate for whistleblowers in a number of ongoing False Claims Act suits. Learn more at http://www.bmkattorneys.com.

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Marie Ekberg Padilla
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