Legal Defense for Pharmacists

//Legal Defense for Pharmacists

Florida Pharmacy Owner to Serve 15 Years in Prison for $100 Million Billing Fraud Scheme

George F. Indest III HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On April 26, 2018, the owner of several Florida pharmacies was sentenced to 15 years in prison and ordered to give up $54.5 million in restitution. Nicholas A. Borgesano Jr., owner of A to Z Pharmacies, pled guilty to his role in a $100 million scheme involving bogus insurance reimbursements for prescription drugs.

He pled guilty in November to charges of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and conspiracy to engage in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity, according to the order. Click here to read more.

Health Care Billing Fraud Schemes. 

According to prosecutors, Borgesano was at the center of an alleged scheme in which the pharmacy owner used his six stores to peddle prescription compound medications. He would then submit fraudulent reimbursement claims to Medicare, Tricare and private insurance companies.

Borgesano and his co-conspirators are accused of manipulating billing codes in the reimbursement claims and submit claims for pharmaceutical ingredients they didn’t even have. Additionally, he used one of his pharmacies in Florida as the hub of operations and paid his co-conspirators through shell companies, checks and the purchase of assets, prosecutors said.

From the pharmacy owner and his group of conspirators, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has seized $7.6 million worth of property, including several luxury vehicles and a 50-foot racing boat, the DOJ said. To read more about the co-conspirators, click here to read the press release issued by the DOJ.

To read the judgement in full click here.

The expensive prescription medications and creams involved in this case have been targeted by prosecutors in a handful of other Florida suits alleging Medicare and Tricare fraud by pharmacy owners and others. Click here to read one of my prior blogs involving a similar case.


Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEADOH and FDA investigations, qui tam and whistleblower cases, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigationadministrative hearings, inspections and audits. The firm’s attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Greene, Kat. “Pharmacy Owner Gets 15 Years For Role In $100M Scheme.” Law360. (April 27, 2018). Web.

Manning, Margie. “New Port Richey pharmacy owner sentenced in $100 million fraud scheme.” Tampa Bay Business Journal. (April 26, 2018). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: False Claims Act defense attorneyFCA legal counselFCA defense lawyer, Anti-Kickback Statute (AKSdefense attorneyFCA representation, legal representation for allegations of violating Anti-Kickback StatuteAKS representation, TRICARE false claims legal defense attorney, TRICARE physician representation, legal representation violating False Claims Act, pharmaceutical fraud lawyer, compounding pharmacy attorney, fraudulent practices of pharmaceutical companies, FCA violations attorneyhealth care fraud representation, TRICARE fraud attorneyhealth law defense attorneyhealth care fraud defense attorney, The Health Law Firm, representation for health care fraud investigations, compounding pharmacy lawyer, prescription reimbursement representation, pharmacy defense attorneypharmacist defense lawter, representation for pharmacies, representation for pharmacistslegal representation for health care facilities, representation for health care professionals, legal defense of TRICARE providers, U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation representation, DOJ defense attorney, representation for DOJ matters, attorney reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Specialty Pharmacy Settles Lawsuit Over Illegal Kickbacks

Lance Leider headshotBy Lance O. Leider, J.D., and George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on December 27, 2012, that a specialty pharmacy, based in San Diego, California, has agreed to pay a $11.4 million settlement. That payment is to resolve allegations that the company used kickbacks to persuade doctors to write prescription for its products. The allegations came from a whistleblower lawsuit filed by a former employee.

Click here to read the press release from the DOJ.

Expensive Kickbacks Used on Doctors.

An article in Modern Healthcare states that the specialty pharmacy allegedly used tickets to sporting events, concerts, plays, spa outings, golf games and ski trips to bribe doctors to write prescriptions for its products. The company also had representatives schedule paid “preceptorships,” where the reps would follow doctors in their offices in an attempt to increase prescriptions written for their products.

To read the Modern Healthcare article, click here.

Settlement Details.

The specialty pharmacy company agreed to a forfeiture of $1.4 million to resolve the anti-kickback statue allegations. It will also pay $9.9 million to resolve false claims allegations, according to the DOJ. Representatives with the DOJ said that by entering the deferred prosecution agreement the company was able to avoid criminal and civil liability for the kickback and false claims violations.

Whistleblower Gets Reward.

According to the DOJ, the settlement resolves a False Claims Act lawsuit that was filed by a former sales representative for the specialty pharmacy. As part of the resolution, that whistleblower will receive $1.7 million.

Whistleblowers stand to gain substantial amounts, sometimes as much as thirty percent (30%), of the amount the government recovers under the False Claims Act (31 U.S.C. Sect. 3730). Such awards encourage employees and contractors to come forward and report fraud. You can learn more on the False Claims Act on the DOJ website.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Qui Tam or Whistleblower Cases.

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistleblower cases. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding, and other services that assist us in such matters.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

What Do You Think?

What do you think of the settlement agreement? As a health professional are you tempted with kickbacks? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Department of Justice. “Victory Pharma Inc. of San Diego Pays $11.4 Million to Resolve Kickback Allegations in Connection with Promotion of Its Drugs.” Department of Justice. (December 27, 2012). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/December/12-civ-1547.html

Kutscher, Beth. “$11.4 Million Settlement in Pharma Kickback Case.” Modern Healthcare. (December 27, 2012). From: ttp://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20121227/NEWS/312279957/

About the Authors: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Pharmacies May be Liable for Filling Valid Prescriptions

Lance Leider headshotBy Lance O. Leider, J.D.

Florida pharmacies have had their potential liability significantly expanded by the Fifth District Court of Appeal. In its recent decision, Oleckna v. Daytona Discount Pharmacy, the appellate court held that a pharmacy owes a duty to its patients that go beyond following the prescribing physician’s directions and properly dispensing the medication.

The court defined the pharmacy’s duty to use due care in filling a prescription to mean more than what it called “robotic compliance” with the instructions of the prescribing physician.

From the court’s decision and some others from around the state it would seem that Florida pharmacists are now under an obligation to question the quantity, frequency, dosage, combination, and possibly even the purpose of a valid prescription. Florida pharmacies are no longer simply a conduit for validly prescribed prescription medications. They are now an integral part of the health care system where trained professionals are expected to act as a check and balance on physicians and other prescribers.

This decision is in keeping with recent Florida Board of Pharmacy cases dealing with narcotic pain medications. The Board has interpreted Section 465.003(6), Florida Statutes, and Rule 64B16-27.820, Florida Administrative Code, to place a duty on a pharmacist to use his or her skill and experience to evaluate the propriety of every prescription presented on a global level.

While courts and the Board are more than willing to expand the scope of a pharmacist’s duty to his or her patients, unfortunately, neither have provided any prospective guidance on how to fulfill the duty.

Suggestions for Compliance.

Below are some suggestions for ensuring your pharmacy is fulfilling its obligation to its patients. This list is by no means exhaustive and is only intended to offer some basic guidance.

1. Know the physician and verify the credentials of an unfamiliar one;
2. Check the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP);
3. Do not fill prescriptions that are more than 30 days old without verifying them with the prescribing physician;
4. Question higher than normal dosages and more frequent administration instructions;
5. Do not provide early refills without verifiable documentation and contact the physician when the patient is seeking an early refill on a medication with a high potential for abuse (the physician is usually in the best position to recognize drug seeking behaviors);
6. Flag concerning prescriptions for mandatory counseling prior to dispensing to give you an opportunity to discuss the risks with the patient;
7. Check the patient’s profile for interactions and discuss them with the patient and, if necessary, the prescribing physician;
8. Periodically check with the prescribing physician on long term medications;
9. Document everything done to verify the propriety of a prescription in the patient’s record; and
10. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to refuse a fill.

In addition to these steps, you should also be conducting regular staff meetings and routine reviews of your processes to ensure that they remain functional and able to be followed.

Comments?

Do you think a pharmacy or pharmacist should be held liable for filling valid prescriptions? How do you verify you or your employees are in compliance? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA, DOH and FDA investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, administrative hearings, inspections and audits. The firm’s attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2015 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Investigates Six Walgreens Pharmacies in Florida

5 Indest-2008-2By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) served an Order to Show Cause (OSC) on a Fort Myers Walgreens pharmacy on February 21, 2013. According to the DEA, the OSC was served as a notice to provide Walgreens with an opportunity to show cause as to why their DEA registration should not be revoked. The Fort Myers pharmacy is one of six Walgreens pharmacies to be targeted for prescribing practices by the DEA.

Click here to read the press release from the DEA.

According to the DEA, these investigations are part of an effort to curb Florida’s prescription drug epidemic.

Six Walgreens Pharmacies and One Distribution Center Targeted by DEA.

In April 2012, the DEA served and Administrative Inspection Warrant (AIW) on the Fort Myers Walgreens pharmacy, as well as five other Walgreens pharmacies in Florida and its distribution center in Jupiter. According to the DEA, the AIWs were served to determine if the pharmacies were dispensing prescriptions for legitimate medical purposes.

Based on the DEA’s findings, the Walgreens distribution center was served with an immediate suspension order (ISO). Click here to read our previous blog on the ISO served on the distribution center.

Between November 2012 and February 2013, the DEA has served OSCs on six Florida Walgreens pharmacies.

According to an article in Naples News, no action has been taken against the stores’ licenses, so they are still able to fill prescriptions pain medications and controlled substances. An administrative hearing will be held in April 2013. The hearing is an opportunity for Walgreens to present their cases. To read the entire Naples News article, click here.

Two CVS Stores in Sanford, Florida Lost Controlled Substance Licenses.

In September 2012, the DEA revoked the controlled substance licenses from two CVS pharmacies in Sanford, Florida. The two stores are accused of dispensing an inappropriate number of prescriptions for oxycodone and had a suspicious number of sales of other controlled substances. There is a blog on this story on our website, click here to read it.

The Ultimate Results of Such Crackdowns.
I am constantly being contacted by patients who are in dire straits, suffering because they cannot locate a pharmacy to fill their legitimate pain medicine prescriptions. These include injured military veterans, patients who are 100% disabled and on disability or social security, patients injured in automobile accidents and job-related accidents (whose medications are paid for by insurance, if they can find a pharmacy to fill it) and others with real chronic pain issues.

If the largest legitimate chains of pharmacies in the state and nation are not allowed to fill these prescriptions, where will these suffering patients turn? Are these actions driving our citizens into the hands of shady independent pharmacies that have fewer safeguards and less accountability? Are these actions driving our citizens to seek out illegal drug dealers and turn to illegal drugs to cope with their legitimate medical problems? I hope not.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, administrative hearings, inspections and audits. The firm’s attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.
To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

What do you think of these investigations on big pharmacies? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Drug Enforcement Administration. “DEA Serves an Order to Show Cause on Walgreen’s Pharmacy in Fort Myers.” Drug Enforcement Administration. (February 22, 2013). From: http://www.justice.gov/dea/divisions/mia/2013/mia022213a.shtml

Freeman, Liz. “DEA Targets Fort Myers Walgreens, 5 Other State Stores.” Naples News. (March 7, 2013). From: http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2013/mar/07/dea-targets-fort-myers-walgreens-5-other-state/?print=1

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620. He does not own stock in Walgreens or any other pharmacy.

 

The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Pharmacists: Talk to a Lawyer Before You Talk to an Investigator

By Christopher E. Brown, J.D.

In Florida, You DO NOT Have to Speak to an Investigator!

Despite mailing out hundreds of thousands of postcards and letters to pharmacists, throughout Florida, we continue to receive calls from new clients and from potential clients, after they have already spoken to and made critical harmful admissions against their own interests to investigators. In Florida, you do not have any duty to cooperate with any investigator who is investigating you. This extends to Department of Health (DOH) investigators (who are sometimes titled “Medical Quality Assurance Investigators” or “Medical Malpractice Investigators”), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) special agents, police officers, sheriff’s deputies, or criminal investigators of any type.

The Investigator is NOT Your Friend.

Let me state this as succinctly and clearly as possible. If you are being investigated, you will not be better off making a statement. You will not be better off explaining your side of the story. The investigator is not your friend. The investigator is not on your side. All you are doing is falling for a trick and helping the government to make a case against you.

Protect Yourself and Your License.

You have a right under the U.S. Constitution to not make any statement that may be used against you. This is so important that in criminal cases government investigators are required to advise you of this by reciting to you your Miranda rights.

However, in cases where you might have your pharmacy license revoked or have your DEA number revoked, the investigator is not required to advise you of your rights.

In a criminal case, there may be ways to have your statement thrown out. However, in a professional licensing case or other administrative case, it may be too late to avoid the damage. You may be the best witness the government has, and you may be the only witness the government needs to prove this case against you.

In the case where you could receive a $100 criminal fine, the investigators are required to read you your constitutional Miranda rights and to be sure that you understand them before you make a statement. However, in a case where you can lose your professional license, where you could lose your livelihood and ability to make a living, where you could lose everything you have worked so hard to obtain, they are not required to do this. You must protect yourself.

Many pharmacists, when confronted by an investigator, who will usually call at a very inconvenient time (to catch you by surprise) and will usually flash a badge (to intimidate you), will refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of the matter and will fall for the bait to “tell their side of the story.” This can be fatal to your defense and fatal to your license.

Do NOT Help the Investigators; Do NOT Admit to Anything.

In the absence of a statement by the suspect (in this case, let’s assume this is YOU), the government may have a very difficult time of proving that you have committed any offense. It may have other witnesses (who may not be around at the time of any hearing or trial). It may have a lot of physical evidence or documents. But it may be impossible for the government investigators to make any link between you and the evidence, unless you help the investigators do this. You would be surprised at how many pharmacists believe that they can just talk their way out of the situation; in reality, they are just giving evidence that is used to make the case against them.

Any evidence at all, just admitting that you were there, admitting that the documents are yours, admitting that the patient was yours, admitting that you worked at the pharmacy, admitting that filled the prescription, admitting that the property is yours, admitting that you were on duty at the time, admitting that you have taken a drug, admitting that you signed the form, can be a crucial piece of evidence that could not otherwise be proven without your own testimony.

Remember, this is the investigators’ job and profession. This is what they do full time, every day. And they are very good at it. They are 1,000 times better at getting you to admit the crucial elements of a disciplinary infraction than you are in “talking your way out of it.” They will not be convinced by any excuses you make. They do not have to be. They will not be the ones making the final decision against you. Theirs is the job of putting together the case against you. You will help them by talking to them, explaining why your decisions are correct, explaining why what you did is excusable, etc. It will not work. You will merely be giving them enough rope to hang you with.

How to Determine the Purpose of the Investigation.

Hint: If it is a Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) special agent (investigator), you are probably under investigation for Medicaid fraud.

Hint: If it is an “auditor,” “surveyor” or “investigator” from an agency or company with “integrity” or “program integrity” in its name, they are probably investigating you for “lack of integrity,” i.e., false claims or fraud.

Hint: If it is a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) special agent (investigator) they are probably investigating you to prosecute you or to revoke your DEA registration for drug or prescribing violations.

Hint: If it is an Office of the Inspector General (OIG) special agent (investigator), you are probably under investigation for Medicare fraud or Medicare false claims.

Do Not Try to Talk Your Way Out of the Investigation; Do NOT Lie.

Do not believe for a second that you are smarter than the investigator. Do not believe for a second that you will convince the investigator (or anyone else) that there is a legal or medical justification for what you did or what they allege. If it were as simple as that, then why would there be an investigation and why would you be the one being investigated?

Additionally, do not believe for a second that you can lie your way out of it, either. Remember, if the government cannot prove the basic offense that it is investigating against you, it may be able to prove that you have committed perjury or lied to an investigator. In the case of a federal official or a federal investigation, merely making a false statement (oral or written) to an investigator is a criminal act. This is what Martha Stewart and many others have served time for in federal prisons.

These investigators are lied to all the time. They are usually better at detecting lies than a polygraph expert is. Furthermore, in most cases, you will be the very last person to be interviewed. Therefore, they will already know just about everything that can be used against you. If your statement contradicts in any way what others have told them, they will know you are the one who is lying. However, knowing something or suspecting something does not mean it will be something that can be proven in court or in an administrative hearing.

Consult a Lawyer Before You Do or Say ANYTHING.

It is much better to make no statement at all. Blame it on your attorney. Tell the investigator that your attorney will kill you if you were to talk to the investigator without your attorney being there ahead of time. “Speak to my attorney.” “My attorney can help you, I can’t.”

All you have to do is state “I must talk to my lawyer before I say anything.” “I will have my lawyer contact you.” “I cannot say anything until I talk to my lawyer.” “I want a lawyer.”

If you are not the one being investigated, then there is no good reason why the investigator would want you to make a statement before you consulted with your attorney. What is the rush?

Then you must also avoid the old trick of the investigator telling you “If you don’t have anything to hide, why would you need a lawyer?” Please don’t fall for this trick, either. This is America. Smart people and rich people spend a lot of money on attorneys and other professionals to represent them and advise them. There is a good reason why they do this.

Far too often the pharmacist only calls us after he has given a statement. This is usually too late to avoid much of the damage that will have been be caused.

Everything above applies to oral statements or written statements. Do not make either. Contact a lawyer as soon as possible, preferably before making any statement, no matter how simple, defensive, self-serving or innocuous you may think it to be.

Think of this as an intelligence test. Are you smart enough to follow this guidance and avoid this type of mistake?

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Pharmacists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to pharmacists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: Christopher E. Brown, J.D. is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Healthcare Providers Service Organization (HPSO) Attorneys, Lawyers and Defense Council for Pharmacists

10 Indest-2008-7By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Often we learn after the fact that a health professional such as a mental health counselor, psychologist, or pharmacist has received Healthcare Providers Service Organization (HPSO) insurance, has had a legal problem, and has not been able to locate an attorney or law firm that accepts this type of insurance. We have offices in Florida and Colorado, but we have attorneys licensed in Florida, Colorado, Louisiana, the District of Columbia, Virginia and other states.

Additionally, we can provide legal advice and representation in license investigations and administrative proceedings in many other states.

If you have HPSO Insurance, do not go without an attorney or with a lawyer that has little or no experience where you need it. Contact us, and we will help you.

We Will Work with Your Insurance Company.

Call us first. We can assist you in determining if your legal problem is covered by your insurance, and we can help you file a claim to have your legal defense expenses and costs covered. In most cases, we will accept the assignment of your insurance so that you do not have to worry about legal bills while your case is going on.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys That Will Work with Insurance Companies.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH) and other law enforcement agencies. Its attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

In cases in which the health care professional has professional liability insurance or general liability insurance which provides coverage for such matters, we will seek to obtain coverage by your insurance company and will attempt to have your legal fees and expenses covered by your insurance company. We will agree to take an assignment of your insurance policy proceeds in order to be able to submit our bills directly to your insurance company, if your insurance company will allow this. Many of these insurers will pay our firm to represent you in the legal defense of an investigation or complaint against your professional (nursing, medical, dental, psychology, mental health counselor) license or for an administrative hearing involving professional discipline.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

37 Central Floridians Charged with Illicit Pharmaceutical Drug Trafficking

By Dr. Thu Pham, O.D., Law Clerk, The Health Law Firm

Attorney General Pam Bondi along with special agent Mark R. Trouville of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Longwood Police Chief Troy Hickson announced, on June 20, 2012, the execution of 37 arrest warrants stemming from state drug charges.  The defendants all reside in Central Florida.

Click here to read the entire press release from the Florida Attorney General.

The Defendants’ Charged with Felonies.

The charges for the defendants ranged from first degree to third degree felonies.  The defendants have been charged with acts, such as conspiracy to traffic Oxycodone, solicitation to deliver Oxycodone, and possession of Hydromorphone with intent to sell or deliver. 

Law enforcement authorities have been able to apprehend 33 of the 37 charged.

Click here to see our experience representing pharmacists and pharmacies.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Representing Pharmacists and Pharmacies.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to pharmacists and pharmacies in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

myfloridalegal.com. “DEA: 37 Charged in Longwood Local Impact Drug Trafficking Conspiracy.” AG. (June 20, 2012).  From Press Release: http://www.myfloridalegal.com/newsrel.nsf/newsreleases/9E8D06F29BCB233B85257A230072572A.

Justice.gov. “Law Enforcement Dethrones “Queen” of Longwood, Florida.” DEA, Domestic Field Division. (June 20, 2012).  From Press Release: http://www.justice.gov/dea/pubs/states/newsrel/2012/mia062012.html

About the Author: Dr. Thu Pham, O.D., is a law clerk with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Feds File Two Lawsuits Against Novartis for Allegedly Giving Kickback to Pharmacists and Physicians

11 Indest-2008-8By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation (NPC) is currently fielding two different lawsuits, filed just days apart from each other, by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The first lawsuit was filed on April 23, 2013, alleging the company gave illegal kickbacks to pharmacists. A second lawsuit was filed on April 26, 2013, alleging illegal kickbacks were paid by NPC to health care providers. According to the DOJ, the government’s complaint seeks damages and civil penalties under the False Claims Act, and under the common law for paying kickbacks to doctors to induce them to prescribe NPC products that were reimbursed by federal health care programs.

Click here to read the entire press release from the DOJ.

Doctors and Pharmacists Allegedly Paid to Prescribe.

Both lawsuits allege NPC violated the Anti-Kickback Statute. In the April 23, 2013, complaint against NPC the lawsuit alleges the company gave kickbacks, in the form of rebates and discounts to pharmacies in exchange for the pharmacies’ cooperation in switching patients from competitors’ drugs to NPC products.

The April 26, 2013, lawsuit accuses NPC of paying doctors to speak about certain drugs at events that were allegedly social occasions. Many of the programs were allegedly held in circumstances in which it would be impossible to have a presentation. According to the DOJ, this included fishing trips off the Florida coast and meetings in Hooters restaurants. NPC is also accused of treating health care professionals to expensive dinners. The payments and dinners were apparently kickbacks to the doctors for writing prescriptions for NPC drugs.

Doctors in the Sunshine State Allegedly Involved.

The lawsuit alleges at least six Florida doctors of participating in the bogus conferences and taking thousands of dollars in kickbacks, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The doctors are not named or charged in the civil lawsuit.

To read the allegations listed in the lawsuit against Florida doctors, click here for the Tampa Bay Times article.

Novartis Claims Discounts and Physician Speaker Programs Were Legitimate.

In a press release, NPC disputes all of the government’s allegations. The pharmaceutical company states that discounts and rebates by pharmaceutical companies are a customary and legal procedure, as recognized by the government. It also addresses the physician speaker programs by saying the programs are also acceptable practices designed to inform physicians about the uses of different types of medicines. Click here to read the entire press release from NPC.

Kickbacks and The Law.

For years drug companies have paid doctors to speak about new drugs at educational conferences with other health care professionals. The practice is legal, but considered questionable.

Under the Anti-Kickback Statute, it’s a felony for health care professionals to accept bribes in exchange for recommending a drug or service covered by Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE or the Department of Veterans Affairs health care program.

Whistleblower or Qui Tam Lawsuits Can Results in a Big Pay Day.

The original complaint against NPC was allegedly filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act by a former sales representative.

Individuals working in the health care industry, whether for hospitals, pharmacies, nursing homes, medical groups, home health agencies or others, often become aware of questionable activities.  Often they are even asked to participate in it. In many cases the activity may amount to fraud on the government.

In a two-part blog series on whistleblower/qui tam lawsuits I explain types of false claims, the reward programs for coming forward with a false claim, who can file a whistleblower/qui tam lawsuit, and more. Click here to read the first part of this blog, and click here for the second part.

The Health Law Firm Lawyers are Experienced with Qui Tam or Whistleblower Cases.

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm represent plaintiffs, patients, health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistleblower cases. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding, and other services that assist us in such matters.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sound Off.

Have you head about these two lawsuits? What are your thoughts? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Masow, Julie. “Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation Disputes Allegations in Two US Government Lawsuits and Looks Forward to a Fair Discussion of the Facts.” Novartis Pharmaceuticals. (April 26, 2013). From: http://www.pharma.us.novartis.com/newsroom/pressreleases/137176.shtml

Davis, Brittany Alana. “Lawsuit: Pharmaceutical Company Gave Kickbacks to Florida Doctors.” Tampa Bay Times. (May 3, 2013). From: http://www.tampabay.com/news/courts/lawsuit-pharmaceutical-company-gave-kickbacks-to-florida-doctors/2119133

Department of Justice. “United States Files Complaint Against Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. for Allegedly Paying Kickbacks to Doctors in Exchange for Prescribing Its Drugs.” Department of Justice. (April 26, 2013). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2013/April/13-civ-481.html

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Two Pharmacists and One Dentist in Central Florida Arrested for Prescribing and Dispensing Prescription Drugs

By Danielle M. Murray, J.D., and George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The Lakeland Ledger reports that Polk County Sheriff’s Detectives arrested a dentist and two pharmacists on September 5, 2012, in three unrelated cases dealing with illegally prescribing and dispensing painkillers. The sheriff’s office said the three arrests are part of its efforts to target prescription drug abuse.

To read the entire Lakeland Ledger article, click here.

The Arrest of the Dentist’s Daughter Led to His Investigation and Arrest.

In May 2012, the dentist’s daughter was arrested for allegedly forging more than 500 hydrocodone prescriptions. That arrest led deputies and the Department of Health (DOH) to search the dentist’s clinic. According to the Lakeland Ledger article, out of 43 patient files randomly selected, 31 patients were being prescribed hydrocodone without any documentation.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office stated that the dentist has been charged with knowingly overprescribing controlled narcotics.

To see the press release from the sheriff’s office on the dentist’s arrest, click here.

Both Pharmacists Caught by Undercover Detectives.

According to the Lakeland Ledger, the two pharmacists that were arrested allegedly illegally dispensed either oxycodone or hydrocodone to undercover detectives. The pharmacists have been charged with trafficking prescription painkillers.

Click here to see the press release on the pharmacists’ arrests from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

Arrests Part of Crack Down on Abuse of Prescription Drugs.

According to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, these arrests are part of an ongoing investigation to target doctors and pharmacists that are improperly prescribing and dispensing prescription medications.

There is an article on our website on legal tips for physicians to manage pain patients. To read that piece, click here.

Criminal Arrest of Over-Prescribers May come From Many Different Agencies.

Physicians and pharmacists who are involved in schemes relating to overprescibing or trafficking in narcotics may be targeted by many different agencies. The local sheriff’s office or police department is just one of them.

We have represented physicians who have been the subjects of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations. The DEA will often use undercover agents and informants to pose as patients, wired for audio recording. The DEA will often work with local law enforcement authorities and the Department of Health (DOH).

Other investigations and arrests may be initiated by a statewide prosecutor’s office, which is under the Attorney General. Still others have been initiated by the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) where Medicaid funds are used.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Providers in DOH Cases.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses, and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH), and other law enforcement agencies.

If you are aware of an investigation of you or your practice, or if you have been contacted by the DEA or DOH, contact an experienced health law attorney immediately.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Malagon, Elvia. “Lakeland Dentist and Two Pharmacists Charged with Prescription Drug Violation.” The Lakeland Ledger. (September 5, 2012). From: http://www.theledger.com/article/20120905/NEWS/120909682?template=printart

Eleazer, Carrie. “PCSO Detectives Arrest Two Pharmacists from Trafficking in Prescription Drugs.” Polk County Sheriff’s Office. (September 5, 2012).  From: http://www.polksheriff.org/NewsRoom/Pages/09-05-2012PCSO%20DetectivesArrestTwoPharmacistsForTraffickinginPrescriptionDrugs.aspx

Eleazer, Carrie. “Dr. William Johnson of Sonrise Dental Clinic Arrested.” Polk County Sheriff’s Office. (September 5, 2012). From: http://www.polksheriff.org/NewsRoom/News%20Releases/Pages/09-05-2012.aspx

About the Authors: Danielle M. Murray is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Recall Alert: FDA Warns Steroid Injections Compounded by Tennessee Pharmacy May Be Contaminated

6 Indest-2008-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent out a warning to health care professionals that steroid injections compounded by Main Street Family Pharmacy, LLC, in Tennessee, may be contaminated. The announcement came on May 24, 2013. So far, seven patients have allegedly suffered adverse reactions from the medications. The FDA says it is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Tennessee Board of Pharmacy to investigate. The steroid injections were allegedly sent to 13 states, including Florida.

To read the press release from the FDA, click here.

Steroid Injections Recalled.

According to an article in the Associated Press, officials have not yet confirmed the products are contaminated. The FDA is treating all sterile products from Main Street Family Pharmacy as if they were contaminated as a precaution. The pharmacy has agreed to recall all of its sterile products. Click here to read the Associated Press article.

The injections in question allegedly contain the same drug at the center of the October 2012, deadly fungal meningitis outbreak. More than 55 people, including five in Florida were killed and 740 others were sickened after receiving contaminated injections from a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy. I previously blogged about that outbreak. To read more, click here.

Patients in North Carolina and Illinois Allegedly Reacted to Injections.

Federal authorities have allegedly identified seven cases of patients who have suffered complications after being injected with the potentially contaminated medications. There are five cases in Illinois and two cases in North Carolina. The Illinois patients supposedly have skin infections and one patient in North Carolina allegedly suffered from a fungal infection.

Florida Department of Health Working to Contain Allegedly Tainted Injections Statewide.

According to the Florida Department of Health (DOH), at least three Florida facilities received the drugs under investigation. Two of the facilities are in Melbourne, Florida, and one is in Chipley, Florida. The Florida DOH says it is not aware of any local cases of infections from these drugs.

To read the press release from the Florida DOH, click here.

Previous Florida Case of Contaminated Medication.

We have previously blogged about the problems encountered by Franck’s pharmacy in Ocala, Florida. It has been accused of distributing eye medications that contained a fungal infection. Click here for the first blog and here for the second blog on this.

Congress Debating on Giving Authority Over Compounding Pharmacies to FDA.

Currently, compounding pharmacies are regulated by state pharmacy boards. There is currently legislation moving through Congress that would give the FDA direct authority over the compounding manufacturers. The goal is to prevent any national outbreaks tied to compounded medications.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits. The firm’s attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sound Off.

Do you think each state should be responsible for regulating compounding pharmacies, or do you think the FDA should be responsible? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Gentry, Carol. “FL Got Drugs Linked to New Outbreak.” Health News Florida. (May 24, 2013). From: http://health.wusf.usf.edu/post/fl-got-drugs-linked-new-outbreak

Kelly, Christopher. “FDA Alerts Health Care Providers of Adverse Reactions Associated with Steroid Injections from Main Street Family Pharmacy in Tennessee.” Food and Drug Administration (May 24, 2013). From: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm353941.htm

Stobbe, Mike and Loller, Travis. “FDA Warns of Infections Tied to Tennessee Pharmacy.” The Associated Press. (May 24, 2013). From: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=186473297

Florida Department of Health. “The Florida Department of Health Partners with Federal and State Health Organizations to Ward of Adverse Reactions Associated with Steroid Injections.” Florida Department of Health. (May 24, 2013). From: http://newsroom.doh.state.fl.us/wp-content/uploads/newsroom/2013/05/052413CDCinfection.pdf

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999. 

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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