By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
A 79-year-old Florida cardiologist was sentenced to six years in prison on March 26, 2013. He’s accused of participating in a fraud scheme involving a trust fund set up to compensate victims of the diet drug Fen-Phen. According to media reports, the cardiologist took fees for examining patients who suspected heart damage from taking Fen-Phen. He diagnosed heart damage in a majority of patients, even when there was none. During sentencing the cardiologist was also ordered to pay $4.5 million in restitution.
Background on Cardiologist’s Scheme.
Fen-Phen was recalled by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1997. It was allegedly linked to potentially fatal heart valve damage. Click here to read the press release from the FDA.
According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), a trust fund was set up to pay benefits to people injured from taking Fen-Phen. Between 1997 and 2009 the Florida cardiologist reviewed echocardiograms of more than 1,100 patients who filed claims with the trust. He falsely certified that the patients’ tests showed they had heart damage.
Cardiologist Falsified Medical Records.
The cardiologist was allegedly paid for each echocardiogram that he read and was compensated for each person who qualified for benefits, according to the DOJ. The cardiologist is accused of writing reports and signing certifications attesting his patients suffered heart damage, even if his patients had no sign of heart damage. The falsified echocardiogram improperly qualified his patients for hundreds of thousands of dollars in benefits. The cardiologist was originally sentenced on September 14, 2012.
Click here to read the press release from the DOJ.
Other Doctors Sentenced to Prison for Similar Fen-Phen Schemes.
There are at least two other reported stories regarding scams related to the Fen-Phen litigation. According to an article on Philly.com, in 2005, a Texas doctor was sentenced to six months in federal prison for hiding thousands of dollars in income she received for preparing echocardiograms for Fen-Phen plaintiffs attorneys. In 2007, the trust that was established to manage the settlement money sued a Missouri cardiologist for fraud, claiming she had falsely certified thousands of medical reports for would-be plaintiffs.
Click here to read the entire article from Philly.com.
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Department of Justice. “Fen-Phen Fraud Doctor Convicted.” Department of Justice (September 14, 2012). From: http://www.justice.gov/usao/pae/News/2012/Sep/tai_release.htm
Hanson, Tony. “Cardiologist Sentenced to 6 Years in Jail for Diet Drug-Linked Fraud.” CBS Philly. (March 26, 2013). From: http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2013/03/26/cardiologist-sentenced-to-6-years-in-jail-for-diet-drug-linked-fraud/
Husten, Larry. “79-Year-Old Cardiologist Sentenced To 6 Years in Prison For Fen-Phen Fraud.” (March 27, 2013). From: http://www.forbes.com/sites/larryhusten/2013/03/27/79-year-old-cardiologist-sentenced-to-6-years-in-prison-for-fen-phen-fraud/
Martin, John. “Six Years in Prison in Fen-Phen Fraud for Doctor, 79.” Philly.com. (March 27, 2013). From: http://articles.philly.com/2013-03-27/news/38043629_1_fen-phen-tai-diet-drug
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.
Tag Words: doctor, physician, cardiologist, fraud, Fen-Phen, Fen-Phen fraud, Fen-Phen patient claims, false claims, False Claims Act, falsely certified medical records, medical record fraud, falsified echocardiogram, echocardiogram, defense attorney, defense lawyer, Florida defense attorney, Florida defense lawyer, legal representation, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
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