Ven-A-Care started out as a small pharmacy supplying intravenous drugs for AIDS and cancer patients, but these days it doesn’t make its money off drugs—at least, not the ones it sells. Instead, it’s pulled in $380 million since 2000 by acting as a professional whistleblower, suing drug companies that overcharge Medicare and Medicaid, the LA Times reports. It’s uncovered major abuses—in one case, for example, blood pressure pills sold to pharmacies for $3.04 were being billed to California at $70.30.
State and federal governments have recovered roughly $2.2 billion thanks to Ven-A-Care’s efforts. “They’re cleaning up a huge cesspool,” says a former fraud investigator. “Without their efforts, taxpayers would be gouged out of I-don’t-know-how-much money.” Ven-A-Care’s critics complain that it’s getting too much out of its settlements, or that it’s not really a pharmacy anymore. But the company says it needs the money to mount such big legal challenges. “It’s a bounty hunting system,” its attorney adds. “There’s no reason to sugarcoat it.”