Drug suit settlement helps fund health programs at UH
University of Hawaii health programs benefiting the elderly will receive $2.3 million from settlement of a lawsuit against a pharmacy company that sold recycled pills to residents of nursing homes.
Some 1,022 residents will share $900,000 in the settlement of the class-action suit. It was filed on behalf of all nursing home residents against Interstate Pharmacy Corp., which supplied drugs to nearly all long-term care facilities in Hawaii.
The settlement of the 2001 lawsuit, announced by attorneys yesterday, is the conclusion of a case that was described as the largest medical fraud case in state history when the state attorney general's office moved against the company in 2000.
The state sued Interstate Pharmacy for allegedly repackaging and selling prescription drugs to nursing homes after they had been returned for various reasons. It was a systematic process that went on for at least seven years, according to the state Medicaid Fraud Unit.
Bergen Brunswig Corp., a giant pharmaceutical corporation that bought Interstate Pharmacy in 1999, assisted with the state investigation at that time. It paid $4 million in 2001 to settle the state suit, and will pay $3.2 million in the class-action suit.
Attorney Thomas Grande said the benefits of the lawsuit reach not only the plaintiffs, but the wider senior population through the endowment to UH.
Half of the money will go to create a Center on Law, Medicine and Aging. The other $1.15 million will go to the John A. Burns School of Medicine for the Leahi Outpatient Geriatrics Clinic, Alzheimer's Disease Referral Clinic and a geriatric inpatient teaching service and teaching nursing home program.
The settlement approved last year by Circuit Judge Eden Hifo provided that $2 million would be distributed to about 3,000 nursing home residents represented in the class action. But some money could not be distributed because people had died and their next of kin were not found, Grande said. It was added to the UH programs.