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Speaker fees or bribery? NY doctor fights criminal charges.

Physicians may accept speaker fees for certain engagements. In some cases, the speaker fees may result from leading a course for others within the medical community. In others, the compensation may result from a talk given to share information about a new technique that may be useful for treating patients. Although it is often legal to accept such fees in certain situations, there are cases where acceptance is illegal.

The fees can become illegal when they are deemed violations of anti-kickback laws. Lawmakers passed anti-kickback laws to help better ensure physicians focus on the good of their patient as opposed to letting financial incentives motivate their treatment choices. A recent case provides an example.

Question of speaker fee versus bribery may hinge on educational value

In this case, a jury in a Manhattan federal court found a physician guilty of anti-kickback laws and honest services wire fraud when he accepted over $300,000 in speaker fees. The prosecution stated the physician received the fees in exchange for prescribing high rates of Subsys, a pharmaceutical product known as an extremely potent opioid spray used to help patients manage pain.

Ultimately, the jury agreed with the prosecution’s claim the speaker fees were not for educational sessions informing other practitioners about the product, but instead “social affairs with no educational value.

Lesson for other physicians taking speaker fees: Make sure educational value is present

Other physicians are wise to take a moment to ensure any speaking fees are connected to a presentation with educational merit. A failure to do so could result in similar allegations of wrongdoing.