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Judge Refuses to Dismiss $21 Million Suit against Florida Pharmacy Alleging Illegal Kickback Scheme

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

On February 13, 2019, a federal judge turned down a Florida pharmacy’s motion to dismiss a $21 million False Claims Act (FCA) suit, but allowed its sister company out of the suit. The judge said Z Stat Medical LLC, which operates as Oldsmar Pharmacy and its owner, must face the government’s claims that it engaged in illegal kickback schemes to defraud Tricare. Oldsmar’s sister company, Stat Direct LLC, was dismissed from the lawsuit completely. There was no evidence it was also involved in the alleged misconduct, according to court documents.

The First Alleged Scheme.

The case was originally brought as a result of a whistleblower complaint that alleged two schemes to defraud Tricare. The first scheme was allegedly a deal between Oldsmar and Centurion Compounding Pharmacy. Centurion was alleged to have hired sales reps as independent contractors. The sales reps marketed costly compounded medications, usually creams for pain and scars, to Tricare beneficiaries. Patients recruited by the sales reps were told to send their prescriptions to Centurion, which then directed them to Oldsmar to fill. The sales representatives would then get part of the reimbursement profit, according to the complaint.

In total, Tricare was stated to have paid about $18 million for these bogus claims, and Oldsmar was alleged to have paid about $6.1 million in kickbacks in a little over a year, the suit says.

The Second Alleged Scheme.

The second alleged scheme involved companies that included Health Savings Solutions and Vici Marketing. Oldsmar allegedly worked with Vici Marketing and published online advertisements offering free consultations. Referrals were funneled through Health Savings Solutions for compounded pain creams. These prescriptions were written and filled, without a patient ever seeing a doctor in person, according to court documents.

According to the government, from September 2014 to February 2015, Oldsmar Pharmacy filed 700 prescription claims with Tricare based on referrals from Health Savings Solutions. In return, Oldsmar Pharmacy paid a 41 percent kickback to the marketers. This resulted in Tricare paying out about $3.4 million. Oldsmar made $5.5 million in payments to Health Savings Solutions, including three payments of about $1 million each, according to the complaint.

Click here to read the complaint in full.

Liable for False Claims.

Judge Hernandez Covington said the government pled the allegations sufficiently to keep Oldsmar and its owner in the case. The government has also satisfactorily alleged that Oldsmar’s owner has enough of an understanding of the Anti-Kickback Statutes (AKS) to have known better, according to the Judge.

While Oldsmar Pharmacy did return $19 million to Tricare, the FCA calls for treble damages Three times the amount), so the company can’t avoid litigation, the judge said, adding that she’ll deduct the $19 million from any final amount determined top be owed.

Click here to read the judge’s order in full.

To read about a case Judge Hernandez Covington made a similar ruling on dealing with a Florida Compounding Pharmacy’s FCA Suit, click here to read one of my prior blogs. (https://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/blog/posts/federal-judge-refuses-to-dismiss-florida-compounding-pharmacys-fca-suit.html)

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA, DOH and FDA investigations, qui tam and whistleblower cases, 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.

Sources:

Kass, Dani. “Pharmacy Must Face $21M Prescription Kickback Suit.” Law360. (February 13, 2019). Web.

“13 IN TAMPA CHARGED AS PART OF NATIONAL HEALTHCARE FRAUD TAKEDOWN.” Tampa Bay Reporter. (June 29, 2018). Web.

Hale, Nathan. “Feds Want FCA Suit Over $21M Kickback Scheme To Proceed.” Law360. (January 28, 2019). 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.

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“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 © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

By |2019-02-21T18:20:05+00:00February 21st, 2019|Categories: Pharmacy Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Florida Pharmacy Hit With FCA Suit for Illegal Kickback Scheme Targeting Tricare

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

On October 19, 2018, the federal government filed suit against a Florida pharmacy for allegations of illegal kickback schemes involving industry marketers. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida alleges that Oldsmar Pharmacy was involved in illegal schemes that resulted in the federal Tricare program paying more than $21 million in reimbursements for prescriptions and False Claims Act (FCA) violations.

Suit Filed on Behalf of The Defense Health Agency (DHA).

The federal government filed the suit on behalf of the U.S. Department of Defense, including its Defense Health Agency (DHA). The DHA administers the Tricare program, which provides health insurance for active duty military personnel, military retirees and their dependents.

The government is seeking treble damages, civil penalties and restitution, based on its claims that the pharmacy submitted claims to Tricare for reimbursement for prescriptions of costly compound medications. The government claims that they knew were fraudulent under the FCA because of the kickbacks paid to marketers.

On October 18, 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released a press release announcing the involvement of three military members in the scheme as sales representatives for Centurion Compounding, Inc. All three were indicted for paying kickbacks to Tricare beneficiaries to obtain prescriptions for compounded medications. You can learn more about this in the section below.21

Click here to read the DOJ’s press release.

Former Whistleblower Suit.

The lawsuit against Oldsmar Pharmacy and company President, Larry Smith, stems from a whistleblower suit filed in 2015 by Jennifer Silva and Jessica Robertson, former employees, according to the complaint.

The schemes allegedly occurred between September 2014 and February 2015 by Smith and Oldsmar and different pharmacy services administration organizations.

Tricare Reimbursements and Kickback Schemes.

According to the complaint, Centurion Compounding Inc., hired sales representatives as independent contractors who marketed costly compound medications to Tricare beneficiaries. Patients recruited by the sales reps were directed to send their prescriptions to Centurion, which then directed them to Oldsmar pharmacy.

From November 2014 to February 2015, Tricare paid about $18 million for approximately 4,000 claims for compound prescriptions as part of the kickback scheme, according to the federal government. Oldsmar paid Centurion more than $6.1 million in kickbacks, some of which was distributed to the individual sales representatives involved.

Additionally, prosecutors claim that pharmacy President, Larry Smith, entered into a second kickback scheme with several marketing companies. These companies published online advertisements offering free consultations for pain creams via telemedicine, without ever seeing a physician in person. In return, Oldsmar Pharmacy paid a 41 percent kickback to the marketers, the complaint alleges.

Click here to read the complaint in full.

The suit brings forward false or fraudulent claims; recovery of payments made by mistake by Tricare; and unjust enrichment. To learn more, click here to read one of my prior blogs on a similar case.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA, DOH and FDA investigations, qui tam and whistleblower cases, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, administrative hearings, inspections and audits. The Firm also represents both plaintiffs (whistle blowers or relators) and defendants in False Claims Act (whistle blower or qui tam) cases. 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:

Hale. Nathan. “Fla. Pharmacy Hit With False Claims Suit Over Kickbacks.” Law360. (October 19, 2018). Web.

Stringini, Mary. “St. Pete doctor pleads guilty to receiving kickbacks, BMW in $5.3 million pharmacy conspiracy.” ABC Action News. (March 8, 2018). Web.

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

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“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 © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Walgreens Agrees to Pay $269 Million to Settle Two FCA Suits

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

On January 22, 2019, Walgreens agreed to pay more than $269 million to settle allegations of False Claims Act (FCA) violations for overbilling of various drugs. The deals are some of the largest pay-outs ever by a retail pharmacy, according to the United States Department of Justice (DOJ).

The Two Settlements.

There were two separate complaints involving Walgreens to settle federal and state lawsuits that accused the pharmacy of overbilling federal healthcare programs. Both were unsealed by U.S. District Court judges in Manhattan, according to the DOJ.

In the first settlement, Walgreens agreed to pay $209.2 million to the U.S. and several state governments for improperly billing Medicare, Medicaid and other federal healthcare programs. The pharmacy is accused of excessive dispensing of insulin pens to beneficiaries who didn’t need them, according to U.S. officials. It reaped improper payments by understating the amount of treatment days covered by supplies of insulin pens. That allowed it to bill for prescriptions that should have been denied as premature, the DOJ said. Click here to visit our website and read the complaint and the stipulation for the first settlement.

In the second settlement, Walgreens agreed to pay $60 million to settle claims of overbilling Medicaid programs through bogus Medicaid price reporting. The retail pharmacy never disclosed or charged the lower drug prices it offered the public through a pharmacy discount program.

According to the DOJ, Walgreens obtained inflated reimbursement amounts because it failed to disclose discounted drug prices in its “Prescription Savings Club.” However, federal prosecutors said Walgreens didn’t disclose the discounted drug price when filing for reimbursement from Medicaid. Click here to visit our website and read the complaint and stipulation for the second settlement.

There are two whistleblowers in the insulin pen case, they will receive a roughly 19 percent cut of the $41 million portion of the settlement that will go to state, a reward of close to $8 million for blowing the whistle. The whistleblower in the Medicaid price reporting case, will receive a $11.4 million reward, according to his attorney. Not bad for a days work!

Walgreens released a statement, saying it was glad to have the matters resolved but admitted to no wrongdoing.

This isn’t the first time Walgreens has been involved in an FCA lawsuit. Click here to read one of my prior blogs on a similar case.

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

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm represent physicians, nurses and other health professionals who desire to file a False Claims Act (whistle blower or qui tam) case. This case just shows that even physicians can and should bring such claims and be rewarded for their whistle blowing activities. However, the attorneys of The Health Law Firm also defend physicians, medical groups and health facilities who have been sued in False Claims Act (whistle blower or qui tam) cases or have had administrative or civil complaints filed against them to recover civil monetary penalties. 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. We have represented doctors, nurses and others as relators in bringing qui tam or whistle blower cases, as well.

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

Sources:

Overley, Jeff. “Walgreens Pays $269M In Milestone FCA Deals.” Law360. (January 22, 2019). Web.

Thomas, Patrick. “Walgreens to Pay $269 Million on Claims It Overcharged Federal Programs.” WSJ. (January 22, 2019). 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: healthcare fraud, healthcare fraud representation, healthcare fraud defense lawyer, Medicare Fraud, legal representation for Medicare fraud, Medicare fraud defense attorney, legal representation for allegations of Medicare fraud, legal representation for health care fraud, legal representation for fraudulent billing, legal representation for allegation of defrauding the government, legal representation for submitting false claims, Medicare audit defense attorney, Medicare billing defense attorney, health care clinic fraud audit, legal representation for false billing, legal representation for Medicare audits, Medicaid fraud defense attorney, legal representation fr Medicaid fraud, legal representation for Medicaid audit, Medicaid audit defense attorney, Medicare and Medicaid investigation defense attorney, legal representation for Medicare and Medicaid investigations, OIG investigation defense attorney, legal representation for OIG investigations, False Claims Act (FCA), FCA attorney, FCA representation, FCA defense lawyer, whistleblower representation, whistleblower defense attorney, qui tam lawyer, qui tam defense attorney, qui tam representation, legal representation for pharmacies, legal representation for pharmacists, pharmacy representation, pharmacists defense attorney, pharmacy defense lawyer, Board of Pharmacy representation, Board of Pharmacy defense lawyer, reviews of the Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, Health law defense attorney

“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 © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

By |2019-01-29T20:53:27+00:00January 29th, 2019|Categories: Pharmacy Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

DOJ Announces $2.8 Billion Recovered From Healthcare FCA Cases in 2018

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

On December 21, 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it recovered more than $2.8 billion from False Claims Act (FCA) (also known as “qui tam” or “whistleblower cases”) cases in 2018. Of the $2.8 billion in settlements and judgments that the government obtained during the year through FCA cases, more than $2.5 billion involved health care fraud. These cases included drug and medical device manufacturers, managed care providers, hospitals, pharmacies, hospice organizations, laboratories, and physicians.

Health Care Fraud.

The DOJ’s largest recoveries involving the health care industry in 2018 came from the drug and medical device industry. In one example, AmerisourceBergen Corporation paid a whopping $625 million to settle charges filed under the whistleblower provisions of the FCA. The charges alleged that it illegally distributed misbranded drugs for cancer patients. Of that amount, $581.8 million was paid to the federal government and $43.2 million was paid to state Medicaid programs. Click here to read more on that.

Whistleblower Complaints.

Of the $2.8 billion recovered in 2018, more than $2.1 billion arose from lawsuits filed under the qui tam provisions of the FCA. The government paid out $301 million to the whistleblowers who exposed fraud and false claims by filing these actions. There was a total of 645 qui tam suits filed in 2018. Click here to see the DOJ’s 2018 statistics.  To view the DOJ’s press release on fraud for the fiscal year 2018, click here.

Health Care Fraud is a Serious Matter.

We have been consulted by many individuals, both before and after criminal convictions for health care fraud or related offenses. In many cases, those subject to Medicare fraud audits and false claims investigations refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of the matter. Some may even decide not to spend the money required for a highly experienced health attorney to defend them.

Click here to read one of my previous blog posts regarding health care fraud.

The government is serious about combating health care fraud. It created a Medicare Fraud Strike Force in March 2007, in an effort to further prevent and eliminate fraud and abuse of government health care programs. False claims are a growing problem in the program, costing the government billions of dollars each year. Accordingly, punishments for defrauding the system can be quite severe.

If you are accused of health care fraud, realize that you are in a fight for your life. Your liberty, property/possessions and profession are all at stake. Often it is possible to settle allegations of fraud by agreeing to pay civil monetary penalties and fines. If given such an opportunity, the Medicare provider should consider whether it is worth the risk of facing decades in prison. Be prepared to give up whatever you need to in order to avoid a conviction and preserve your liberty.

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

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, dentists, orthodontists, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, assisted living facilities (AFLs), home health care agencies, nursing homes, group homes and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits and recovery actions.

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and others who may desire to file a qui tam, False Claims Act or whistleblower suit. We work with physicians, nurses and other professionals to investigate, document and file such 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. We have represented number of doctors and other licensed health professionals as relators in bringing qui tam or whistleblower cases. Our attorneys are also available to defend physicians, medical groups and health care providers in qui tam or whistleblower cases.

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

Sources:

Bantz, Phillip. “US Justice Department Recovered $2.8 Billion From False Claims Act Cases in 2018.” Law.com. (December 28, 2018). Web.

“Health Care Dominates FCA Judgments and Settlements in 2018.” The National Law Review. (December 31, 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: healthcare fraud, healthcare fraud representation, healthcare fraud defense lawyer, Medicare fraud, legal representation for Medicare fraud, Medicare fraud defense attorney, legal representation for allegations of Medicare fraud, legal representation for health care fraud, legal representation for fraudulent billing, legal representation for allegation of defrauding the government, legal representation for submitting false claims, Medicare audit defense attorney, Medicare billing defense attorney, health care clinic fraud audit, legal representation for false billing, legal representation for Medicare audits, Medicaid fraud defense attorney, legal representation fr Medicaid fraud, legal representation for Medicaid audit, Medicaid audit defense attorney, Medicare and Medicaid investigation defense attorney, legal representation for Medicare and Medicaid investigations, OIG investigation defense attorney, legal representation for OIG investigations, False Claims Act (FCA), FCA attorney, FCA representation, FCA defense lawyer, whistleblower representation, whistleblower defense attorney, qui tam lawyer, qui tam defense attorney, qui tam representation, reviews of the Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, Health law defense attorney

“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 © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Florida Pharmacist Gets More Than Six Years in Prison For Role in Compounding Fraud Scheme

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

On November 29, 2018, a Florida pharmacist was sentenced to six and a half years in prison and ordered to pay $3.4 million, for her role in a scheme to defraud the government. Marjorie Robinson pled guilty one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud for submitting fraudulent claims to Tricare, Medicare and private insurance programs for compounded creams that were not necessary.

The Fraud Scheme.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Robinson was one of three owners of ASC Pharmacy Inc., a now defunct compounding pharmacy in Miami. Under her direction, the pharmacy made compounded creams that were made to maximize reimbursement from government and private insurance programs, not for patients needs, according to the plea deal. Click here to read the press release from the DOJ.

The other owners were charged separately and have also pled guilty.

This isn’t the first time a Florida pharmacy has defrauded government programs like Tricare, click here to read one of my prior blogs on a similar case.

Health Care Fraud Should Not Be Taken Lightly.

We have been consulted by many individuals, both before and after criminal charges were brought for fraud or related offenses. In many cases, those subject to Medicare and Medicaid fraud audits and investigations refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of the matter. Some may even decide not to spend the money required for a highly experienced health attorney to defend them.

Click here to read one of my previous blog posts regarding Medicare and Medicaid audits.

The government is serious about combating health care fraud. It created a Medicare Fraud Strike Force in March of 2007, in an effort to further prevent and eliminate fraud and abuse of government health care programs. False claims are a growing problem in the program, costing the government billions of dollars each year. Accordingly, punishments for defrauding the system can be quite severe.

If you are accused of Medicare or Medicaid fraud, realize that you are in a fight for your life. Your liberty, property/possessions and profession are all at stake. Often it is possible to settle allegations of fraud by agreeing to pay civil monetary penalties and fines. If given such an opportunity, the provider should consider whether it is worth the risk of facing decades in prison. Be prepared to give up whatever you need to in order to avoid a conviction and preserve your liberty.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late; Consult with a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Medicare and Medicaid Issues Now.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent pharmacists and healthcare providers in Medicare audits, ZPIC audits and RAC audits throughout Florida and across the U.S. They also defend pharmacists, physicians, pharmacies and medical groups in actions by Tricare, Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers to recoup overpayments, obtain civil fines and penalties and take other actions against them. They represent pharmacies and pharmacists in DEA actions and administrative (Order to Show Cause ) hearings, Medicare Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) investigations, and administrative and civil litigation, physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits, recovery actions and termination from the Medicare or Medicaid Program.

For more information please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.

Sources:

Bolado, Carolina. “Fla. Pharmacist Gets 6½ Years For Bogus Claims For Creams.” Law360. (November 29, 2018). Web.

“South Florida pharmacist sentenced to more than six years in prison for role in $3.4 million compounding pharmacy scheme.” MD Linx. (November 30, 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.

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“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.

By |2018-12-26T19:49:51+00:00December 26th, 2018|Categories: Pharmacy Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Florida Sues Walgreens, CVS For Alleged Role in Helping Create and Increase Opioid Crisis

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

On November 19, 2018, the state of Florida announced that it is suing pharmacy chains Walgreens and CVS over their role in what it calls “unconscionable efforts to increase and expand the ongoing opioid crisis in Florida.” State Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office announced that it added the two companies to a lawsuit filed in May 2018, against opioid distributors and manufacturers.

The Supply and Demand Problem with Opioids.

The state alleges that the two chains are responsible for overselling addictive opioids, as well as not taking precautionary measures to stop illegal sales, helping to inflate the supply and demand. The companies join Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, as well as several other opioid distributors, as defendants in the lawsuit.

In a news release, Bondi noted that the companies failed to stop “suspicious orders of opioids” and “dispensed unreasonable quantities of opioids from their pharmacies.” Click here to read the press release.

As the Opioid Crisis Continues, So Do the DEA Investigations.

Both companies have previously paid to resolve Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) allegations and have shelled out millions to settle allegations involving stores in Florida. In 2018, Walgreens agreed to pay $80 million to resolve a DEA investigation into inadequate record keeping and diversion related to opioids, according to the suit. Likewise, CVS agreed to pay $22 million in 2015 to resolve DEA allegations that its pharmacists were filling fake prescriptions for opioids and other drugs. Click here to read the amended complaint in full.

In the last decade, law enforcement has cracked down on opioid prescriptions and pill mill operations. Florida ‘s lawsuit comes at a time when more than 1,000 state and local governments across the U.S. are pursuing civil cases against opioid-makers and distributors.

Click here to read one of my prior blogs on this topic.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA, DOH and FDA investigations, qui tam and whistleblower cases, 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.

Sources:

Sullivan, Emily. “Florida Sues Walgreens, CVS For Alleged Role In Opioid Crisis.” NPR. (November 19, 2018). Web.

Peters, Xander. “Florida files lawsuit against Walgreens, CVS for allegedly ‘playing a role’ in opioid crisis.” Orlando Weekly. (November 19, 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.

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“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.

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.

The Government’s Use of Civil Forfeiture to Combat Health Care Fraud and Pill Mills in Florida

CEB Blog Label2By Christopher E. Brown, J.D., The Health Law Firm, and George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Recently we have seen government prosecutors and agencies, including the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU), the U.S. Attorney General’s (AG) Office, and local sheriff and police departments use the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act against health professionals and health facilities in health-related cases.

A prompt, aggressive defense to these actions may recover the property or funds seized and, more importantly, a good defense can be used to help resolve any pending criminal charges.

Civil Forfeiture of Property is Used to Fight Alleged Criminal Activity.

The civil forfeiture of property has become a popular tool for state and federal agencies to combat alleged criminal activity.  In Florida, the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, Sections 932.701 through 932.706, Florida Statues permits the government to seize personal property if there is probable cause to believe that property is either an instrumentality or the proceeds of criminal activity. In federal cases, such as Medicare fraud cases, the Federal Forfeiture Act can be found at 18 U.S.C. §983.Typically, a forfeiture action begins when personal property is seized as a result of a violation or arrest.  The owner of the personal property is then entitled to a notice within five (5) days of the seizure.

Remember If You Are The Subject of a Seizure, Ask For:

1.  An inventory of the seized items.

2.  A Receipt.

3.  The business cards or names, addresses, titles and phone numbers of each official or agent involved.

What is The Adversarial Preliminary Hearing?

Your most important right after a seizure is the right to an adversarial preliminary hearing.  This request must be made in writing within fifteen (15) calendar days of receipt of the notice. Sometimes the notice is given at the time the property is seized; it is important not to lose or misplace it.

When an adversarial preliminary hearing is held, the Court will review the verified affidavit and any other supporting documents and take testimony to determine whether there is probable cause to believe that the seized property was used, is being used, was attempted to be used, or was intended to be used in violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act.

While the burden of proof at this initial stage favors the government, the adversarial preliminary hearing is one of the fastest and most effective ways to fight for the return of the property and assert any defenses that exist in the case.  Even if unsuccessful at this hearing, the property owner is still entitled to a later civil forfeiture trial in which the government must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the property was used in the commission of or obtained through the proceeds of criminal activity. Often it is unable to do this and far more defenses are available for use at the trial.

The key to success in civil forfeiture actions is to immediately consult with an experienced attorney after the property has been seized. Your best defense is to act as quickly as possible.

Use of Adversarial Preliminary Hearing to Obtain Information for Defense.

The Adversarial Preliminary Hearing is also a tool by which a defendant can obtain early, detailed discovery on his or her case. During the hearing the law enforcement authorities will be required to testify under oath and produce any documentary evidence. This can prove invaluable to the criminal defense attorney in later criminal proceedings.

Did the Government Exceed the Bounds of Propriety?

Although the government would contend otherwise, we believe the main purpose in the government’s use of civil forfeitures is to shut down the alleged criminal and make it so he or she cannot hire an attorney to defend the person(s) accused. This does, unfortunately, often work.

However, there are defenses and often the government exceeds the bounds of propriety in its overzealousness. We have successfully defended, for example, cases in which:

–  A sheriff’s office seized a spouse’s personal car for which she had traded in her old car.

–  A teenage daughter’s college account that had in it only money she had earned from her part-time job.

–  Money from a business owner’s purse which had been given to her by her mother to pay for her hospital labor and delivery charges.

–  Money from a roll-over IRA account which had been invested long before any criminal activity was alleged to have occurred.

–  Money from a family member’s account which had come from social security payments made for that person.

Every Person Should File a Claim.

If a spouse or other family member has an interest in the property, especially if that person is named on the account or title, that person should file a separate claim for return of the property and demand a Preliminary Adversarial Hearing. Even if the initial hearing is not successful in achieving an early return of the property, such defenses should prevail at the trial of the case.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Civil Forfeiture Cases.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, mental health counselors and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, civil forfeitures, inspections and audits involving the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), 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.

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 Civil Forfeiture Act being used against health care professionals and health facilities? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.
About the Authors: 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.

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.

Traveling Nurses Must Have Appropriate Professional Liability Insurance

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

We are often asked what we consider to be the biggest problem that a nurse has in defending herself in a complaint against her license.  In our opinion, it is not having the financial resources to retain the services of an experienced attorney to defend her.  Because of this, we believe that any nurse, especially traveling nurses working at a hospital, skilled nursing facility, home health agency, assisted living facility, medical group, or any other organization must have her own personal professional liability policy that provides ample insurance coverage for professional license defense expenses.

Most Complaints Made Against Nurses are Filed by Employers.

In our experience, most of the complaints filed against nurse professionals come from employers.  In many cases, a patient will complain to the employer and the employer will file the complaint.  In others, the employer initiates the complaint because of substandard performance, documentation problems, allegations of theft or drug diversion, allegations of falsification of documents or records, etc.  When this happens, in most cases the employer terminates the nurse.  This is why we say that a nurse must have her own professional liability insurance policy.

We see a great many more complaints filed against a nurse’s license that she then must defend, than we ever see civil claims for damages.

Many nurses work under the incorrect assumption that they are “insured” by their employer or their agency or that their employer’s or agency’s insurance covers them.  This is a fallacy, especially when it comes to defending against a complaint made against one’s nursing license.  If your employer or agency is the one that files the complaint against you, you don’t really think that your employer or agency is going to cover the legal expenses associated with your defense, do you?

Some hospitals and health organizations are notorious about firing nurses who have any discrepancies in drug counts or who have documentation errors.  This often results in a complaint to the Department of Health (DOH) against the nurse’s license.

Furthermore, we are all aware of the phenomenon with the traveling nurse, the person who is no longer there, getting all of the blame for any problem or incident that come up.  The ones that are still at the facility, the ones who are conducting the investigation on the incident, are far less likely to find blame with their friends and colleagues who are still there.

Just when you need it the most, you may find yourself out of a job, with no income, and no money to pay for a legal defense.  This may ultimately lead to your losing your nursing license and your ability to ever work as a health professional again.

If You Don’t Have Personal Professional Liability Insurance-Get It.

Professional liability insurance policies for nurses are very cheap.  Often policies are only about ten dollars a month.  Usual limits of coverage for this small premium payment are one million dollars of coverage for civil suits and $25,000 or more coverage for professional license defense.

But wait, it is not as simple as just purchasing the first professional liability insurance policy you find.  Many professional liability insurance policies do not offer license defense coverage.  Or, if they do, it is limited to only complaints where there is also the threat that a patient is going to sue for money.  Still others provide such low limits of coverage for license defense expenses (e.g., $5,000 or $10,000) that it is not worth the money paid for it, while others do not allow you to choose your own attorney.

Insurance Companies We Recommend.

We usually tout insurance companies such as that provided by Nurses Service Organization (NSO) and Healthcare Professionals Service Organization (HPSO) as providing great bang for the buck.  But here lately, we’ve been seeing (and hearing) more and more about CPH & Associates insurance.  Not only does it provide one million dollars in coverage if you are sued in a civil court, but it also provides up to $35,000 in coverage for professional license defense.  Additionally, for a very small additional payment, with CPH & Associates Insurance you can increase that coverage to $100,000 for professional license defense.  The other company we hear good things about is Lloyd’s of London.

If you have a complaint filed against your nursing license and you have to prove your innocence through a formal administrative hearing (trial), this can be very, very expensive.  Additionally, if you lose at this level, you may have to appeal the results to a higher court.  These expenses can easily cost $75,000, even if you win.  And you are not ever assured that you will get any of this money paid back to you, even if you are innocent and you win the case.  Inexpensive insurance coverage is the only thing that makes since.  Buy it!

In Conclusion.

We urge all nurses, especially traveling nurses, to purchase and maintain their own personal professional liability insurance policy.  It’s tax deductible.  But check to make sure you have coverage for professional license defense, even when there is no claim for damages expected from a patient.  Additionally, pay the extra premium to purchase a higher limit of coverage for professional license defense cases, or buy a second insurance policy for this additional coverage.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, in appearances before the Board of Nursing in licensing matters and in many other legal matters. We represent nurses across the U.S., and throughout Florida.

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

Comments?

Do you have personal professional liability insurance? Will you consider purchasing a personal policy now? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

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.

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