There's No Such Thing as a Free BBQ: Kickbacks Cost Physicians Too
By Tim McCormack and Molly Knobler (published on the Huffington Post blog)
On October 29th, pharma giant Warner Chilcott pled guilty to a felony healthcare fraud charge, agreeing to pay $125 million to settle allegations that it had paid illegal kickbacks to doctors and engaged in other illegal marketing behavior to sell its drugs Actonel®, Asacol®, Atelvia®, Doryx®, Enablex®, Estrace,® and Loestrin®. Perhaps more significant than the size of the settlement is the fact that multiple individuals, including the company’s former President, have either plead guilty or been indicted in connection with the fraud. In fact, the criminal charges extended beyond the ranks of company employees.
Shortly before Warner Chilcott pled guilty, prominent Massachusetts gynecologist, Dr. Rita Luthra, was arrested at her home and charged with obstructing a criminal healthcare investigation and violating the anti-kickback statute and HIPAA regulations. She faces up to five years in prison, substantial criminal fines, and potential civil liability under the False Claims Act. One has to wonder why a doctor who has been practicing for more than 30 years and is reportedly a liaison to the United Nations and the World Health Organization would betray her patients’ trust by–it would seem–deciding which drug to prescribe based on how much she was paid by the drug’s manufacturer, or by letting a drug company go through her patients’ confidential medical records.
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