Dinesh Thakur, the whistleblower in the huge Ranbaxy USA drug fraud case, challenged attendees to increase their efforts to combat health care fraud in countries beyond the U.S. “Health care fraud is one of the most heinous frauds there is,” Thakur said during the Wednesday closing General Session. “And there is more of a need for you — with all the wonderful work you do in the financial area — to expand that and look at health care fraud.”
In 2004, Dr. Rajinder Kumar, Thakur’s manager at Ranbaxy, requested Thakur to investigate reports that the company had provided false data to the World Health Organization. Thakur discovered a company culture that not only tolerated fraud, but also apparently celebrated and encouraged it. Kumar presented the investigation’s damning results to the company’s board and resigned.
Thakur also resigned and took his findings to the U.S. Federal and Drug Administration (FDA). After a nearly nine-year ordeal, Ranbaxy, in the largest drug safety settlement to date with a generic drug manufacturer, pleaded guilty on May 13, 2003, to seven federal felonies and agreed to pay $500 million in fines, forfeitures and penalties.
For “Choosing Truth Over Self,” the ACFE honored Thakur with the Cliff Robertson Sentinel Award.
“At the core of fraud is a personal decision,” Thakur said in his acceptance remarks. “Even when you look at very large corporations that indulge in fraud there are people who essentially make decisions that lead to that situation. Your organization is important because you try to educate people — tell them what is right from wrong. Thank you.”
Thakur said that the systems and processes ACFE members institute dissuade people from taking advantage of situations and create fraud deterrents. “Examinations that you conduct essentially reveal weaknesses in the processes and systems that can be fixed and lead to better compliance,” he said.
Thakur said that many of the anti-fraud principles in the conference’s educational sessions are unknown concepts in developing countries. “Corruption and fraud are ways of doing business” in these countries, he said.
During last year’s ACFE Global Fraud Conference, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, “Preet Bharara was awarded the Cressey Award, and he spoke about corporate minimalism — just doing the bare minimum to meet your commitment for regulation as [compared to] affirmatively doing the right thing,” Thakur said. “If you think that’s bad in this country, try to travel to Southeast Asia and Latin America and see … how corporations do the bare minimum to try to get by.”
The outcome of Thakur’s case and others resulted in a new law, the FDA Safety & Innovation Act of 2012. The act expands the FDA’s authorities and strengthens the agency’s ability to safeguard and advance public health by:
• Giving the authority to collect user fees from industry to fund reviews of innovator drugs, medical devices, generic drugs and biosimilar biological products.
• Promoting innovation to speed patient access to safe and effective products.
• Increasing stakeholder involvement in FDA processes.
• Enhancing the safety of the drug supply chain.
Thakur said he presents many role models to his two children, including his former manager, Dr. Kumar, and the lead U.S. federal agent in the Ranbaxy case. “And from what I see and hear today in this hall, [you] are role models for what we need to teach our children to stand up for what is right,” Thakur said.
The Cliff Robertson Sentinel Award is named after the Academy-Award-winning actor who, in the late '70s, discovered a Hollywood producer who was creating phony royalty checks, forging the signatures of those for whom the checks were intended and pocketing the cash.
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