New York enforcement officers arrested five doctors in March based on allegations of kickback violations and the illegal acceptance of bribes. The doctors maintained their innocence and pled not guilty before a federal court in Manhattan.
The case originally involved the local, state attorney general. Additional evidence gathered from six whistleblowers within the pharmaceutical company has led to the expansion of the case. Six additional states and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have joined the case since this evidence became available.
Breaking down the allegations: Details behind the charges
The prosecution has accused the physicians of failing to put the needs of the patients before their own monetary gain. More specifically, the attorney general claims the five doctors took bribes in the form of speaking fees. The prosecution claims the speaking engagements were not legitimate educational opportunities, but instead a front to provide the physicians with a monetary award for prescribing a pharmaceutical company’s fentanyl-based spray. Instead, the prosecution states the event became “mostly social affairs with no educational presentation about the spray.”
As noted above, six whistleblowers from the company have brought additional evidence of techniques used to encourage physicians to prescribe their medications. The whistleblowers claim the company also took physicians for “lavish” meals, offered jobs to relatives and provided visits to strip clubs. These benefits allegedly translated to increased and unnecessary prescriptions of the drug. One physician is accused of getting $4 million in payment from Medicare for use of the drug.
Lesson for medical professionals: Investigations and allegations can escalate quickly
What began as a relatively manageable case in March has escalated within a matter of months into a multi-state, federal case. Physicians that face allegations should promptly take note and take steps to protect themselves from prosecution.