There’s No Such Thing As a Free Lunch – Especially from your Pharma Rep.
While the first part of this title was popularized by the 1975 book authored by economist and Nobel prize winner Milton Friedman, the totality of the title should leave a chilling and lasting impression in light of the following recent release.
Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Massachusetts
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, October 22, 2015
Springfield Doctor Indicted in Anti-Kickback Case
BOSTON – A Springfield gynecologist was arrested today in connection with allegedly accepting free meals and speaker fees from a pharmaceutical company in return for prescribing its osteoporosis drugs, allowing pharmaceutical sales representatives to access patient records and lying to federal investigators.
Rita Luthra, M.D., 64, of Longmeadow, was indicted on one count of violating the Anti-Kickback Statute, one count of wrongful disclosure of individually identifiable health information and one count of obstructing a criminal health care investigation by lying to federal agents and directing an employee to do the same. The indictment also seeks $23,500 in criminal forfeiture.
According to court documents, from October 2010 through November 2011, Warner Chilcott, a pharmaceutical company based in Rockaway, N.J., allegedly paid Luthra $23,500 to prescribe its osteoporosis drugs, Actonel® and Atelvia®. On 31 occasions, a Warner Chilcott sales representative allegedly brought food to Luthra’s medical office for her and her staff, and paid Luthra $750 to talk with her for 25-30 minutes while she ate. On another occasion, Warner Chilcott paid to cater a barbeque that Luthra hosted at her home for her friends. Warner Chilcott also paid Luthra $250 for speaker training, despite the fact that she never spoke to any other physicians. It is alleged that Luthra’s prescriptions of Warner Chilcott’s osteoporosis drugs increased during the time that she was paid by the company, and precipitously declined once she stopped being paid. Luthra also allowed a Warner Chilcott sales representative to access protected health information in her patients’ medical files. She further provided false information to federal agents when interviewed about her relationship with Warner Chilcott, and allegedly directed one of her employees to also lie.
The charge of violating the Anti-Kickback Statute provides a sentence of no greater than five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $25,000. The charge of disclosure of individually identifiable health information provides a sentence of no greater than one year in prison and/or a fine of $50,000 and one year of supervised release. The charge of obstructing a criminal health care investigation provides a sentence of no greater than five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz and Phillip Coyne, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General, Office of Investigations, made the announcement today. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Miranda Hooker and David S. Schumacher of Ortiz’s Health Care Fraud Unit.
The details contained in the indictment are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.