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Health News Florida

Damages Reduced in Kickbacks Case

A federal judge has reduced the punitive damages that a Tampa jury imposed in June on national drug-testing firm Millennium Laboratories after finding that it engaged in unfair competition by breaking anti-kickback laws in Florida and two other states.

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But Millennium Labs, based in San Diego, still owes more than $11 million to its rivalAmeritoxLtd. after the reduction. In Friday's 29-page order, U.S. District Judge SusanBucklew called Millennium's conduct "fairly reprehensible."

She deniedMillenium'srequest for a new trial or a set-aside of damages. She did, however, reduce punitive damages by $3.5 million to $8.5 million -- which are in addition to actual damages of $2.7 million.

As Health News Florida reported in June, the jury decided that Millennium Labs gave doctors an illegal inducement -- a kickback -- when it offered them plastic urine-specimen cups with test strips built into them, at no charge.  As Millennium had hoped, many of the doctors who had been using Ameritox Ltd. for the lucrative confirmatory follow-up tests switched to Millennium.  The cups cost Millennium just $5 apiece. 

Bucklew said the jury's punitive damages award had exceeded what the law allowed under state statutes in both Florida and Tennessee; she let the damages for Texas stand. The damages for Millennium's activities in Florida were larger than those for the other two states combined. The jury rejected Ameritox's claims for activity in three other states.

In an interview with Courthouse News Service, Millennium spokeswoman NicoleBeckstrand said the company was pleased with the reduction, but intends to appeal the remaining judgment. 

Ameritox, based in Baltimore, brought the civil case against Millennium Labs in 2012 after state and federal authorities did not intervene, its attorneys said during the two-week trial. - -Health News Florida is part of WUSF Public Media. Contact Special Correspondent Carol Gentry at cgentry@wusf.org. For more health news, visit HealthNewsFlorida.org. 

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