Practice Fusion paying $118.6 million in False Claims Act settlement; no underlying qui tam.

Practice Fusion, creator of electronic health records (EHR) software, admits that it solicited and received kickbacks from a major opioid company in exchange for utilizing its EHR software to influence physician prescribing of opioid pain medications.

In exchange for so-called “sponsorship” payments of almost $1 million, Practice Fusion’s software was designed to influence physicians’ prescribing of opioids via “clinical decision support” alerts. A pop-up would ask about a patient’s level of pain. A drop-down menu would then list treatments ranging from a referral to a pain specialist to a prescription for an opioid painkiller. Choose an option and the program would create a treatment plan. From 2016 to spring 2019, this occurred about 230 million times in tens of thousands of doctors’ offices. While the settlement does not name the drugmaker, other media sources report that it was Purdue, manufacturer of OxyContin.

From the Department of Justice press release:

“Practice Fusion’s conduct is abhorrent. During the height of the opioid crisis, the company took a million-dollar kickback to allow an opioid company to inject itself in the sacred doctor-patient relationship so that it could peddle even more of its highly addictive and dangerous opioids,” said Christina E. Nolan, U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont. “The companies illegally conspired to allow the drug company to have its thumb on the scale at precisely the moment a doctor was making incredibly intimate, personal, and important decisions about a patient’s medical care, including the need for pain medication and prescription amounts.”

In addition to the civil settlement, this case is the first ever criminal action against an EHR vendor. Practice Fusion has executed a deferred prosecution agreement and agreed to pay over $26 million in criminal fines and forfeiture. In separate civil settlements, Practice Fusion has agreed to pay a total of approximately $118.6 million to the federal government and states to resolve allegations that it accepted kickbacks from the opioid company and other pharmaceutical companies.