Gene testing firm, principals, to pay $42.6 million kickback settlement

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A New Orleans-based genetics testing company will pay $42.6 million, including $1 million by its three principals, Dr. Tarun Jolly, Patrick Ridgeway, and Barry Griffith, to resolve allegations that they paid kickbacks in exchange for laboratory referrals for pharmacogenetic testing and for furnishing and billing for medically unnecessary tests.

UTC Laboratories Inc., which has also been known as Renaissance RX or RenRX, also agreed to a 25-year ban from participating in any federal healthcare program, the Justice Department said Oct. 9. It said there was no admission of liability.

The agreement to pay resolved six whistleblower lawsuits accusing the company of violating the federal False Claims Act.

The government alleged that between 2013 and 2017, UTC and its principals offered and paid remuneration to physicians to induce the ordering of pharmacogenetic tests, purportedly in return for their participation in a clinical trial known as the Diagnosing Adverse Drug Reactions Registry (DART).

The government also alleged that UTC and its principals offered and paid remuneration, including sales commissions, to entities and individuals as part of the scheme, and furnished pharmacogenetic tests that were not medically necessary and billed the Medicare program.

The Department of Justice said in a press release that “the payment of cash and thinly-disguised referral bribes,” as contended by the government, resulted in a more than $42 million resolution in this case.

Special Agent in Charge CJ Porter of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) said additionally his agency barred RenRX from receiving any payments from federal health programs for 25 years.

“The payment of kickbacks in exchange for medical referrals undermines the integrity of our healthcare system. Today’s settlement reflects the Department of Justice’s commitment to ensuring that taxpayer monies are well spent and not wasted on unnecessary medical testing,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division.

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