Doctors Buying Illegally Imported Cancer Drugs Putting Patients At Risk

Armen Hareyan's picture
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A whistleblower lawsuit has exposed an illegal scheme where doctors have purchased illegally imported cancer drugs as a way to cut their costs and boost their income. In doing so, the doctors risked the effectiveness of their cancer patients' treatment and defrauded the Medicare program.

In the first settlement of its kind, an oncologist in Flushing, N.Y., Dr. Kee Y. Shum, has agreed to pay $275,000 to the federal government to settle allegations against him that are part of the "qui tam" (whistleblower) lawsuit, the whistleblower's lawyers and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York announced today.

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"By participating in this scheme, doctors risked the health and safety of their patients with cancer by buying drugs that may have been counterfeit or contaminated," said Colette G. Matzzie, a Washington, DC, attorney with Phillips & Cohen LLP, which represents the whistleblower.

Doctors could purchase the illegally imported drugs for less than what they would have paid for oncology drugs purchased legally and profited off the "spread" between the two prices when they sought reimbursement from Medicare.

The doctors couldn't verify the country of origin of the drugs, and there were no controls on the drugs to ensure they were effective and to ensure they weren't counterfeit or contaminated.

"Assistant U.S. attorneys Paul Kaufman and Deborah Zwaney have done a tremendous job investigating and pursuing these illegal drug importations that could harm cancer patients," attorney Matzzie said. "We hope that the settlement with Dr. Shum is the first of many enforcement actions taken against doctors who illegally import oncology drugs."

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