Feds probe Alere’s billing practices for drug tests

Federal investigators have launched a criminal investigation into Alere’s billing practices, focusing specifically on drug tests provided through the company’s toxicology unit, according to the Wall Street Journal.

People familiar with the investigation told the newspaper the Department of Justice is seeking information about whether Alere covered patient copays for certain tests, and whether the company paid illegal kickbacks to doctors that ordered the tests.

Alere confirmed to the WSJ that it has received subpoenas from the DOJ, but said the matter is “not material,” arguing the government claims represented a small fraction of the company’s overall revenue in 2015. The new investigation could add another kink in Abbott’s acquisition of Alere.

Last year the nation’s largest drug testing laboratory paid $256 million to settle claims that it billed the government for unnecessary tests, prompting payers to intensify addiction treatment audits. In Oklahoma, a sharp increase in drug screening claims has led to a state investigation. Meanwhile, UnitedHealth became the second insurer to sue a defunct Texas laboratory, claiming it paid $50 million for unnecessary drug screening tests.

- read the WSJ article