Genentech and OSI Pharma pay $67 million to settle whistleblower suit for false statements about cancer drug

Pharmaceutical companies Genentech Inc. and OSI Pharmaceuticals LLC will pay $67 million to resolve False Claims Act allegations that they made misleading statements about the effectiveness of the drug Tarceva to treat non-small cell lung cancer, the Department of Justice announced today.ΠGenentech, located in South San Francisco, California, and OSI Pharmaceuticals, located in Farmingdale, New York, co-promote Tarceva, which is approved to treat certain patients with non-small cell lung cancer or pancreatic cancer. OSI Pharmaceuticals LLC is the successor to OSI Pharmaceuticals Inc., which was acquired by Astellas Holding US Inc. in 2010 and converted to a limited liability company in 2011.

The settlement resolves allegations that, between January 2006 and December 2011, Genentech and OSI Pharmaceuticals made misleading representations to physicians and other health care providers about the effectiveness of Tarceva to treat certain patients with non-small cell lung cancer, when there was little evidence to show that Tarceva was effective to treat those patients unless they also had never smoked or had a mutation in their epidermal growth factor receptor, which is a protein involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells.

As a result of today’s $67 million settlement, the federal government will receive $62.6 million and state Medicaid programs will receive $4.4 million. The Medicaid program is funded jointly by the state and federal governments.

The settlement resolves allegations filed in a lawsuit by former Genentech employee Brian Shields, in federal court in San Francisco. The lawsuit was filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private individuals to sue on behalf of the government for false claims and to share in any recovery. Shields will receive approximately $10 million.

The case is captioned United States ex rel. Shields v. Genentech, Inc., et al., Case No. CV 11 0822 MEJ (N.D. Ca.). The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.

Jeffrey Newman represents whistleblowers but not those in this case.