Stockton Oncologist Pays $736,000 to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A Stockton oncologist has paid the United States $736,000 to settle allegations that he improperly billed Medicare, Medicaid, and Tricare for certain chemotherapy drugs purchased from an unlicensed foreign pharmaceutical distributor, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced today.
The United States alleged that, over a two-year period ending in May 2011, Dr. Neelesh Bangalore billed and received reimbursement from Medicare, Medicaid, and Tricare for such drugs in violation of the federal False Claims Act. Bangalore purchased chemotherapy drugs from Warwick Healthcare Solutions Inc., also known as Richards Pharma (Warwick), a former United Kingdom-based drug distributer that did not have a license to distribute drugs in the United States. Bangalore administered certain of these medications to his patients, billing several federal healthcare programs, including Medicare. One medication he purchased from Warwick was Altuzan, a drug not approved by the FDA. In addition, the FDA tested a batch of Altuzan that Bangalore had purchased from Warwick and determined that it was counterfeit and lacked the active ingredient bevacizumab.
“Investigating healthcare related fraud allegations is one of our office’s top priorities,” said U.S. Attorney Wagner. “Particularly in cases where Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries receive compromised care or ineffective medication, these investigations serve a dual purpose of protecting the public and recovering federal funds.”
“Patients—especially those battling cancer and other life-threatening illnesses—should be able to trust that their physicians only use medicines approved by the FDA, medicines proven to be safe and effective,” said Special Agent in Charge Ivan Negroni of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. “Our agency will continue to pursue health care providers that ignore requirements designed to protect patient health and federal health care programs.”
“For drugs that enter the U.S. from outside the FDA-regulated distribution system, there is no guarantee that the drug is safe and effective for patients to use,” said Lisa L. Malinowski, Special Agent in Charge of the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations’ Los Angeles Field Office. “We will continue to work to protect the health of patients who rely on prescription drugs and to ensure the safety and effectiveness of those drugs.”
This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, and the Defense Health Agency. Assistant United States Attorneys Vincente A. Tennerelli and Kurt A. Didier represented the United States in this matter. The claims settled by this agreement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.