A Corrupt Psychiatrist Working with Corrupt Drug Companies
You’d think that people who enter a helping profession would hold themselves to a higher standard. But recently I posted about an addiction counselor who drove while drunk and killed someone. I’ve also mentioned corrupt doctors who overprescribe addictive pills for the money, in this post, CA Doctor Charged with Murder in Prescription Pill Abuse Case and in this one: Prescription Pill Abuse: Confronting a Family Member, and Another Doctor Charged.
Psychiatrists aren’t always law-abiding citizens, either, as this Wall Street Journal article, Psychiatrist Accused in Alleged Prescription Kickback Scandal, shows. A Doctor, Michael J. Reinstein, in Chicago, is accused of submitting 140,000 or more claims to Medicare and Medicaid for clozapine prescriptions. Clozapine, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, is an antipsychotic used to treat schizophrenia. It has serious side effects, however, so it’s a treatment of last resort. It’s especially dangerous for the elderly.
The charges hold that at least 40,000 of those claims were for treating elderly patients in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, but had nothing to do with their actual needs. What is also heinous, besides using these people and defrauding Medicare and Medicaid, is that he was in cahoots with two drug companies, Novartis and IVAX Pharmaceuticals, according to the U.S Attorney who pressed charges. Since the 1990s, Novartis had supposedly been paying Reinstein to prescribe Clozaril, another form of Clozapine.
In 2003, “when Novartis finally informed Dr. Reinstein that it was withdrawing its support for Clozaril and ending its payments to the doctor,” he found a company —IVAX—making the generic form and arranged a new lucrative deal for himself. (Actually, IVAX reached out to him.) Talk about a sweet deal: Reinstein arranged for his nurse to get speaking fees, while he got a $50,000 annual consulting fee and benefits. Additional perks included “an all-expense-paid trip to Miami, a fishing trip, a boat cruise, tickets to sporting events, and free medication for Dr. Reinstein’s personal use.”
When IVAX merged with another company, Reinstein went to a competitor for yet another deal.
Reinstein said he believes in clozapine and expects to be cleared. A legal psychiatry expert said he didn’t think the drug is an unreasonable choice in some cases, but he noted that “the circumstances and extent of prescribing the drug raise serious questions.”
I kept waiting for more mention of the complicity (and duplicity) of the pharmaceutical companies, and the author raised her concern shortly thereafter. She pointed out that doctors are inundated with such offers, but most are responsible enough to resist. Luckily, Obama’s Affordable Care Act tightens up the ease with which kickbacks will be paid, requiring that all payments be cited. Why do I think underhanded companies will continue to operate clandestinely? Perhaps because as one person interviewed noted, the most egregious behavior is difficult to deter.
Unbelievably, the attorney general couldn’t say for sure that the companies mentioned would be prosecuted. And one of most important things that was given short shrift in the article–three people who Reinstein had prescribed the medication for died.