New jersey ophthalmologist admits lying to federal agents during fraud investigation about reuse of lucentis vials
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 17, 2013
NEWARK, N.J. - An ophthalmologist with a medical practice in Englewood, N.J., admitted today to lying to federal agents during a health care fraud investigation into the reuse of single-use vials of prescription Lucentis medication for multiple patients, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Bernard J. Fowler, 68, of Mahwah, N.J., pleaded guilty to an information charging him with making false statements to federal agents with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG). He entered his plea before U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton in Newark federal court.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Fowler was a licensed and board-certified ophthalmologist, operating his own medical practice called Retina Vitreous Consultants, when he was interviewed by HHS-OIG special agents on July 27, 2011. Fowler no longer operates the practice.
During his guilty plea, Fowler admitted that in 2008 and 2009, he had administered injections from one vial of Lucentis to more than one patient on multiple occasions, but told the investigating agents that he had not. Fowler admitted he knew the statement was false and he intended to deceive the agents.
In addition to the potential health risks of reusing single-use vials on multiple individuals, such reuse can generate fraudulent billings to patients and insurers based on the approximately $2,000 cost of a full vial.
The false statements charge carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gain or loss caused by the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for March 24, 2014.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of HHS-OIG, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Thomas O’Donnell, and the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford, for the investigation leading to the guilty plea.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Scott B. McBride and R. David Walk of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Health Care and Government Fraud Unit.
Defense counsel: David M. Laigaie Esq., Philadelphia