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Pharmacy, owners to pay $775K to resolve kickback scheme allegations

A Sarasota pharmacy was accused of engaging in an illegal kickback scheme to induce the referral of compounded drug prescriptions for Tricare and Medicare beneficiaries.

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  • | 4:29 p.m. February 14, 2019
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  • Manatee-Sarasota
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SARASOTA — Vital Life Institute LLC, formerly known as AgeVital Pharmacy LLC, and owners Jenny and William Wilkins have agreed to pay at least $775,000 to resolve claims they violated the False Claims Act by engaging in an illegal kickback scheme, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's office. 

The settlement resolves allegations that Sarasota-based AgeVital, at the direction of the Wilkinses, paid kickbacks to a third-party marketing company to solicit prospective patients for compounded drug prescriptions regardless of patient need, authorities contended. The marketing company then allegedly arranged for prescribers to sign those prescriptions, which were then referred to AgeVital to be filled, the release adds. Kickbacks to the marketing entity allegedly consisted of a substantial share of the pharmacy’s Tricare and Medicare reimbursements. 

The Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits the knowing and willful payment of remuneration to induce the referral of services or items that are paid for by a federal health care program, according to the statement. Claims submitted to federal health care programs in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute can subject the violator to liability under the False Claims Act.

“We will not tolerate those who profit at the expense of taxpayers by entering into illegal kickback arrangements,” says U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida Maria Lopez in the statement. “Our office is committed to holding individuals accountable for corporate malfeasance.”

The settlement resolves a lawsuit filed in federal court in Tampa by Manfred Knopf, who allegedly received unwanted compounded medications from AgeVital that were billed to Medicare. He will receive at least $139,500 of the settlement, according to the press release, under whistleblower rules.  

The investigation into the allegations was handled by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, the FBI, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. 


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