Louisville doctor indicted on Medicaid fraud charges in biggest sweep in US history – Courier Journal
A Louisville pain doctor has been indicted on felony charges, among 60 physicians and pharmacists charged Wednesday with illegally handing out potentially addicted opioids. The sweep is the biggest of its kind in U.S. history.
Dr. Christopher Nelson, with Louisville’s Bluegrass Pain Consultants, has been indicted on Medicaid fraud charges. He’s accused of a kickback and bribe scheme to funnel customers to one particular pharmacy, according to the indictment unsealed this week.
A special strike force from the U.S. Department of Justice, which led the investigation, began making arrests in five states early Wednesday, according to a joint news conference Wednesday morning in Cincinnati.
Most of the defendants face charges of unlawful distribution of controlled substances involving prescription opioids.
Authorities say the doctors and pharmacists gave out about 350,000 prescriptions, totaling more than 32 million pills, in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia and Alabama.
Prosecutors say those charged behaved more like drug dealers than medical professionals.
In the Lousiville case, Assured Rx, a compounding pharmacy that provided creams and other drug products, and Nitesh Patel, Assured Rx’s registered agent, paid a higher than average sales commission to Nelson, through intermediaries, for patients with commercial insurance in exchange for the referral of government-insured patients, the indictment alleges.
The kickbacks to Nelson were funneled through ETN, LLC. Nelson, in turn, referred his patients to Assured Rx, LLC, for drug products, according to the charges.
Pain patients on edge: Pain patients on edge: Either I take opioids or ‘I kill myself’
Nelson also is accused of paying bonuses to Bluegrass Pain Consultants nurse practitioners and physician assistants based on the number of drug products they prescribed to patients that were filled by Assured Rx.
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The clinic’s doctors would sign these prescriptions or a clinic employee would sign or stamp one of the doctors’ names on the Assured Rx order form, the indictment alleges.
Federal agents were seen raiding Bluegrass Pain Consultants clinics in June but remained mum on the investigation.
While local police and agents with the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration were sorting through medical records at the Worthington clinic on Champion Farms Drive, next to the Montessori School of Louisville, a chronic pain patient leaned on a cane while asking what was going on.
She told a reporter the doctors are nice and have provided needed medication for seven years.
Russell Coleman and Rob Duncan, Kentucky’s two U.S. Attorneys, announced the indictments Wednesday. It’s part of a the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force initiative, which unites prosecutors and data analysts trained in these types of cases with several federal agencies — including the FBI, DEA, postal service officials, the IRS and others.
Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions released details in October about the new federal effort to sniff out and ensnare those who put profit over patient safety by essentially dealing drugs and defrauding the health care system.
Bluegrass also has locations in La Grange.
Dr. Ijaz Mahmood, who operates a clinic in Elizabethtown, also was indicted on health care fraud charges.
Indictments represent only the side of prosecutors, and defendants are presumed innocent unless convicted.
This story will be updated.
Reporter Beth Warren: email@example.com; 502-582-7164; Twitter @BethWarrenCJ. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/bethw.
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