Three Indian American Doctors Face 10-Year Jail Term for Alleged Healthcare Fraud
The indictment says that the physicians unlawfully prescribed an opioid addiction treatment drug and tried to get federal insurance agencies to cover the cost through fraudulent claims.
Three Indian American physicians from Pennsylvania have been charged with healthcare fraud for trying to get Medicare or Medicaid to cover costs of unlawfully prescribed buprenorphine — a medication for opioid addiction treatment.
Dr. Krishan Kumar Aggarwal, 73, Dr. Madhu Aggarwal, 68, and Dr. Parth Bharill, 69, work for the Redirections Treatment Advocates, which is an opioid addiction treatment practice with offices in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Besides them, Dr. Cherian John, 65, and Dr. Michael Bummer were also indicted for similar charges on May 3, PTI reported.
According to the indictment, the doctors, who work as contractors at various locations, distributed unlawful prescriptions for buprenorphine, also called Subutex and Suboxone, which is a drug used for treatment of individuals with addiction and is only prescribed in certain doses. Buprenorphine nullifies painful symptoms of opioid withdrawal and lessens cravings. Unlike methadone (which is also used for similar purpose), it can be prescribed in pill form. It does not require the patient to take the medication in a secure medical setting, as per the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The doctors have also been charged with healthcare fraud for submitting fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medicaid, federal insurance programs that cover people aged above 65 years, and people with low income, respectively. They allegedly tried to get them to cover the cost of buprenorphine.
The five of them face a maximum sentence of 10 years behind bars and a fine of $250,000 for each of the counts of dispensing Schedule III controlled substances illegally. The indictments came into light via the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, created by Attorney General Jeff Sessions last year, which uses data to target opioid-related healthcare fraud.
“It’s incredible but true that some of our trusted medical professionals have chosen to violate their oaths and exploit this crisis for profit,” Sessions was quoted as saying by the news agency. The United States is facing one of its worst drug crisis in history, which kills an American every nine minutes, the report added.
Sessions sent a dozen of the top federal prosecutors to focus solely on the problem of opioid-related health care fraud in places where the epidemic was at its worst, including Western Pennsylvania, last year.
“These cases cut off the supply of drugs and stop fraudsters from exploiting vulnerable people. Our prosecutors began issuing indictments back in October, and today we bring even more charges against those who allegedly defrauded the taxpayer while diverting potentially addictive drugs,” Sessions said.