Drug test company settles in kickback case

Nov. 17, 2010 at 1:04 PM
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., Nov. 17 (UPI) -- A U.S. drug testing company will pay $16.3 million to settle a lawsuit charging it paid kickbacks to doctors to win their business, federal prosecutors said.

Ameritox, based in Midland, Texas, will make the payment, of which $3.4 million will go the whistle-blower in the case, to settle a false-claims lawsuit, the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times reported Tuesday.

The suit was brought by former Ameritox senior sales representative Debra Maul of Belleair Beach, Fla., the newspaper said.

Maul filed the whistle-blower suit in U.S. District Court in Tampa in 2007 after leaving Ameritox.

The federal False Claims Act permits private citizens who know about fraud against the government to bring lawsuits on behalf of the public and share in any money recovered by officials.

Maul, 56, attempted to bring the improper practices to light when she worked at Ameritox in 2005 and 2006, but "they didn't embrace her complaints in any regard," her attorney David Linesch said.

"She just believes in doing it the right way and couldn't work at a place that didn't," Linesch said.

Maul is now a vice president for sales at another lab company.

Ameritox markets drug-testing services to doctors who prescribe powerful narcotics for their patients, many of whom are covered by Medicare and Medicaid, court records show.

Ameritox faced allegations that it made cash payments to doctors to win their Medicare business, prosecutors said.

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