On August 7, 2017, a Florida oncologist was sentenced to 5 years and 10 months in prison after she was found guilty on November 18, 2016 by a federal jury following a nine-day trial for her receipt and delivery of misbranded drugs, smuggling goods into the United States, health care fraud, and mail fraud. The sentencing judge also entered a money judgment against the defendant in the amount of $848,671.19, which was the amount calculated as the proceeds of her criminal conduct.
The trial testimony and evidence showed the jury that the Florida oncologist, who owned, operated, and was the head doctor of a cancer treatment clinic located in Palm Harbor, Florida, ordered, and directed others at the cancer treatment clinic to order, chemotherapy drugs from foreign, unlicensed distributors that were not FDA-approved, beginning in at least May 2009. One of the foreign, unlicensed distributors that supplied chemotherapy drugs to the Florida cancer treatment clinic had reportedly sold counterfeit versions of a chemotherapy medication that did not have the key ingredient in the drug.
The prosecutors alleged that the defendant continued to have patients administered the drugs obtained from the distributor that allegedly sold counterfeit chemotherapy drugs after the defendant became aware of the reports regarding the counterfeit drugs. When that distributor went out of business, the defendant allegedly switched to buying drugs from another foreign, unlicensed distributor.
Many of the drugs that the Florida cancer treatment clinic received from overseas distributors, including from the United Kingdom, were shipped directly to the Florida cancer treatment clinic. The government alleged that the packaging and documents shipped with the drugs showed that the drugs were manufactured and packaged for distribution outside of the United States, including in Turkey, India, and Germany.
The government contended that the patients who received the chemotherapy drugs at the Florida cancer treatment clinic were unaware that the drugs they received were misbranded and obtained from non-FDA-approved foreign distributors.
The Florida cancer treatment clinic submitted claims to Medicare for the unapproved cancer drugs administered at the clinic, and the defendant allegedly falsely represented that the FDA-approved versions of the drugs had been administered, knowing that unapproved and misbranded versions had been given to patients. Prosecutors contended that the defendant’s intention was to generate profits from the difference between the Medicare reimbursement rates for the FDA-approved drugs and the discounted prices of the misbranded versions of those drugs purchased from foreign distributors.
The federal criminal jury had found the defendant guilty of 17 counts of receipt and delivery of misbranded drugs, 12 counts of smuggling goods into the United States, 11 counts of health care fraud, and 5 counts of mail fraud. She faced a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison for each mail fraud and smuggling offense, 10 years imprisonment for each health care fraud count, and 3 years for each count of receipt and delivery of misbranded drugs.
If you have information regarding false claims having been submitted to Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, other federal health care programs, or to other federal agencies/programs, and the information is not publically known and no actions have been taken by the government with regard to recovering the false claims, you should promptly consult with a False Claims Act attorney (also known as qui tam attorneys) in your U.S. state who may investigate the basis of your False Claims Act allegations and who may also assist you in bringing a qui tam lawsuit on behalf of the United States, if appropriate, for which you may be entitled to receive a portion of the recovery received by the U.S. government.
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