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Whistle-blower Ven-A-Care wins in Texas case against drug company

A Texas jury orders two subsidiaries of Icelandic pharmaceuticals company Actavis to pay $170 million for overcharging the Texas Medicaid program. The decision puts Ven-A-Care in line to receive millions in reward money.

February 02, 2011|By Andrew Zajac, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Washington — The tiny south Florida pharmacy that built a profitable business blowing the whistle on drug companies that cheat the government has won a signal victory.

A Texas jury on Tuesday ordered two subsidiaries of Icelandic pharmaceuticals company Actavis to pay $170 million for overcharging the Texas Medicaid program. That means the whistle-blower — Ven-A-Care of the Florida Keys Inc. — is in line to receive millions in reward money for acting as the public's watchdog.

It's the first time that one of the targets of Ven-A-Care's lawsuits has elected to go to trial rather than settle out of court. And it continues the Key West company's whistle-blowing winning streak.

The case was brought by Texas Atty. Gen. Greg Abbott on the basis of evidence supplied by Ven-A-Care. In 18 previous cases involving schemes to defraud Medicare and Medicaid, companies charged on the basis of Ven-A-Care information have agreed to settlements instead of going to trial.

Those settlements produced at least $2.2 billion for state and federal governments and at least $380 million in whistle-blower fees for the four partners involved in Ven-A-Care's litigation.

"We are disappointed by the Texas ruling and are exploring our legal options," Actavis Vice President John LaRocca said in a statement.

azajac@latimes.com

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