Rutledge Announces Cabot Man Sentenced for Crimes Involving ChildrenWed, Dec 9, 2015
LONOKE – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced today that a Lonoke County man has been sentenced to 35 years in the Arkansas Department of Correction on child exploitation charges.
Jason Kurtz, 28, of Cabot pleaded guilty to 30 counts of distributing, possessing or viewing matter depicting sexually explicit conduct involving children. In addition to his prison sentence, Kurtz must register as a sex offender.
“These predators are dangerous to communities across Arkansas, and getting these criminals off our streets is a priority of this office,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “The Attorney General’s office Cyber Crimes Unit works closely with local prosecuting attorneys and law enforcement agencies to protect our children.”
Kurtz was arrested in February on a search warrant obtained by the Attorney General Special Investigations Division. An attorney from the Attorney General’s office was appointed by the 23rd District Prosecuting Attorney Chuck Graham as special deputy prosecutor. Judge Barbara Elmore sentenced Kurtz on Dec. 7 in Lonoke County Circuit Court.
Rutledge Roundtables Reach all 75 CountiesTue, Dec 8, 2015
TEXARKANA – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today held a Rutledge Roundtable in Texarkana with local business and community leaders. The stop in Miller County marks a milestone for Rutledge as she has held at least one roundtable with business, government and civic leaders in all 75 counties, listening to their concerns and discussing local issues.
“I strongly believe in face-to-face conversations,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Rutledge Roundtables help create an open dialogue in communities outside of Little Rock and allow me to hear firsthand what they want from their government. Since July, I have traveled approximately 12,000 miles to hear the concerns of Arkansans and to let them know the Attorney General’s office is here to help.”
Rutledge credits launching Rutledge Roundtables based off a lesson she learned during college when she spent her summers in Independence County flagging traffic for the State highway department. Rutledge says, “I noticed there was sometimes a disconnect between the engineers in the office and those of us on the road. As Attorney General, I do not want there to be a disconnect between those of us who work in the capital city and Arkansans who live in communities around our State.”
Roundtables were held today in Lewisville, Ashdown and Texarkana. In addition to discussing local issues, Rutledge gave an overview of the work at the Attorney General’s office over the last year.
The first Rutledge Roundtable was held in Jonesboro on April 17. Attorney General Rutledge has hosted 85 roundtables across the State with more than 700 participants and has traveled approximately 12,000 miles since July.
Kickback Allegations Resolved in Settlement with Novartis PharmaceuticalsMon, Dec 7, 2015
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced that she has reached a settlement with Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. to resolve kickback claims. Novartis is accused of providing kickbacks to certain specialty pharmacies in exchange for recommending the drug Exjade to Medicaid and Medicare patients.
Under the settlement, Novartis has agreed to pay $390 million to the U.S. and more than 40 States. Arkansas is set to receive $612,961.60 as part of the settlement.
“Novartis used contests and threatening tactics to encourage select pharmacies to provide inaccurate information to patients to encourage the use of a drug they were marketing,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Patient health and well-being should always be the top priority for pharmaceutical companies and pharmacies. This settlement, which holds Novartis accountable, is the largest Medicaid fraud settlement of the year and will be deposited into the Arkansas Medicaid Program Trust Fund.”
Novartis, which is headquartered in New Jersey, is a subsidiary of the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis AG. In late 2005, the drug Exjade was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of chronic iron overload due to blood transfusions; however, after launching the drug, Novartis marketed Exjade as a treatment for patients with a number of underlying conditions that affect blood cells or bone marrow, including beta-thalassemia, sickle cell disease and myelodysplastic syndromes.
Between 2007 and 2012, Novartis allegedly paid kickbacks to three specialty pharmacies – BioScrip, Accredo and US Bioservices. The pharmacies were selected by Novartis to be part of a closed distribution network through which most Exjade prescriptions in the U.S. were filled. The scheme began after Exjade failed to meet Novartis' internal sales goals and Novartis discovered that refill rates for Exjade were lower than anticipated. Novartis created a distribution network, which it called EPASS, that allowed them significant control over how many patient referrals each pharmacy received. The pharmacies would exaggerate the dangers of not taking Exjade, emphasize the benefits and downplay the severity of the side effects. The pharmacies billed themselves as specialty pharmacies that could arrange for these shipments and run educational programs for patients.
In the course of the scheme, Novartis pressured the specialty pharmacies by threatening to exclude them from the EPASS network or to reduce the number of patient referrals they received. Novartis also set up a contest in which the pharmacy that kept patients on Exjade the longest would receive additional patient referrals. In addition, Novartis also paid rebates to the specialty pharmacies, which made each patient referral valuable and incentivized the need to encourage patients to stay on the drug. The contest and the rebates were never disclosed to Exjade patients or their caregivers.
Despite concerns from their own legal team, Novartis went forward with the contest after it was determined that the benefits of the scheme outweighed the risk of violating the federal Anti-Kickback Statute.
To appease Novartis, all of the pharmacies put together plans to increase refill rates that included nurses placing phone calls to patients or caregivers. One pharmacy, BioScrip, told Novartis that BioScrip would make claims about Exjade preventing organ damage that the FDA had told Novartis it should not make in Novartis' promotional materials. Another pharmacy, Accredo, showed Novartis a call protocol that directed nurses to tell patients it was “extremely important” to take Exjade and to tell patients about the common side effects of the drug but not the more severe side effects, such as kidney or liver problems.
Novartis admitted many aspects of the scheme in a stipulation filed in federal court in connection with the settlement. Among other things, Novartis admitted that it indicated to BioScrip that it might terminate its distribution agreement or reduce the number of patient referrals it received. Similarly, Novartis admitted that it told Accredo and US Bioservices that Novartis might reduce the number of patient referrals that they received and “pushed” them to implement plans in which nurses would call patients and encourage them to stay on Exjade. Novartis also admitted that it used the scorecard results to allocate EPASS patients to the specialty pharmacies.
The settlement also resolved allegations that Novartis paid kickbacks to other specialty pharmacies to promote the drug Myfortic to doctors. Myfortic is an immunosuppressant that is approved for use in kidney transplant patients.
BioScrip Inc. and Accredo Health Group Inc. have already agreed to pay $15 million and $60 million, respectively, to resolve claims that they accepted kickbacks from Novartis to promote Exjade.
The settlements were negotiated by a team of States led by representatives from the Offices of the Attorneys General for California, Indiana, New York, Oklahoma, Washington and Wisconsin.
Recoverable RadioShack Gift Card BalancesFri, Dec 4, 2015
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced that a settlement has been reached with the former retailer, RadioShack, which will allow holders of the company’s gift cards to file claims seeking to recover the unused balance on their cards.
Consumers who have unused RadioShack gift cards with a balance may visit oldradioshackgiftcards.com to read about the claims process and obtain a claim form, which they can submit electronically or by mail.
“When a popular retailer closes, many times consumers are left holding unused gift cards that could have been used at the store or online,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Through this settlement, Arkansans still holding unused RadioShack gift cards may be able to receive 100 percent of the remaining balance. I encourage all Arkansans who have unused gift cards from RadioShack to submit a claim. As always, the Attorney General’s office stands ready to assist any Arkansan with this process.”
All claims will be reviewed according to the court approved plan and settlement, which established the RSH Liquidating Trust and authorized it to review and approve claims.
Under the order, the Trust will treat gift cards that were purchased by either the holder of the card or by the person who gave the card as a gift from RadioShack, the RadioShack website or any of its authorized sellers as a priority claim and pay 100 percent of the balance on the cards to consumers.
Cards acquired in any other way will not be treated as priority claims, and those claimants will at most receive a small percentage of the balance of the card or may not receive any payment.
The deadline for filing claims is Dec. 2, 2016, and consumers in all 50 states are eligible to file proofs of claim.
Rutledge reminds consumers that no one associated with this settlement will contact them to ask for personal or financial information or to request any payment. Consumers asked for such information or payment should say no to those requests and contact the Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@ArkansasAG.gov.
Arkansas was joined in the settlement by Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia.
Rutledge Announces Mobile Office Locations for DecemberTue, Dec 1, 2015
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced mobile office locations for December.
Attorney General Rutledge created the mobile office initiative to make the office accessible to everyone, particularly to those who live outside the capital city. In October, the initiative celebrated the milestone of holding office hours in all 75 counties, marking the first time that the Attorney General’s office has held office hours in each county across the State.
The mobile offices assist constituents with consumer-related issues in filing consumer complaints against scam artists. Attorney General Rutledge believes there is no issue too small for her staff to have a face-to-face conversation.
For more information about services provided by the Attorney General’s office, visit ArkansasAG.gov or call (501) 682-2007. Rutledge can also be found on Facebook at facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge and on Twitter at twitter/com/AGRutledge.
The upcoming mobile office schedule is below:
Thursday, Dec. 3
9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Hot Springs Senior Center
210 Woodbine St.
Hot Springs, AR 71901
Monday, Dec. 14
10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Van Matre Senior Center
1101 Spring St. #1100
Mountain Home, AR 72653
Tuesday, Dec. 15
9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Lightle Senior Center
2200 E. Moore Ave.
Searcy, AR 72143
Monday, Dec. 21
10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Schmieding Senior Center
1801 Forrest Hills Blvd. #200D
Bella Vista, AR 72715
Rutledge, Other Attorneys General, Reach Settlement with Millennium HealthTue, Dec 1, 2015
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, joined by 48 other States and the District of Columbia, today announced that Arkansas will receive $121,568.64 as part of a $256 million settlement with Millennium Health, formerly Millennium Laboratories, to resolve alleged violations of the False Claims Act for billing Medicare, Medicaid and other federal health care programs for medically unnecessary urine drug and genetic testing and for providing free items to physicians who agreed to refer expensive laboratory testing business to Millennium. Millennium, headquartered in San Diego, is one of the largest urine drug testing laboratories in the U.S. and conducts business nationwide.
“It is horrible to think that patients would be subjected to tests because one of the largest drug testing laboratories in the U.S. wants to increase its profit,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Companies who take advantage of Arkansas patients and steal from Medicaid and Medicare will not be tolerated.”
The States alleged that Millennium caused physicians to order excessive numbers of urine drug tests, which instead of being tailored to individual patients were standing orders that failed to consider an individualized assessment of each patient’s needs. This practice violated federal health care program rules that limit payment to services which are reasonable and medically necessary for the treatment and diagnosis of a patient’s illness or injury. The States also alleged that Millennium violated the Stark Law and the Anti-Kickback Statute, which generally prohibit laboratories from giving physicians anything of value in exchange for referrals of tests.
As part of the settlement, Millennium has agreed to pay $227 million to resolve False Claims Act allegations that they systematically billed federal health care programs for excessive and unnecessary urine drug testing from Jan. 1, 2008, through May 20, 2015. Millennium has also agreed to pay $10 million to resolve False Claims Act allegations that it submitted false claims to federal health care programs from Jan. 1, 2012, through May 20, 2015, for genetic testing that was performed routinely and without an individualized assessment of need.
In connection with the False Claims Act, Millennium has also entered into a corporate integrity agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General. In addition, Millennium will pay $19.2 million to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to resolve certain administrative actions related to Millennium’s urine drug test billing practices.
A team representing the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units conducted settlement negotiations with Millennium Health on behalf of the States. Team members included representatives of the Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, New York and Washington Medicaid Fraud Control Units. The States coordinated their investigation in conjunction with the Department of Justice Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation branch and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Massachusetts.