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Press Release

Former Delaware Specialty Pharmacy Chief Marketing Officer Agrees to Six-Year Exclusion from Federal Healthcare Programs for Allegations of Kickback and False Claims Act Violations

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Pennsylvania

PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero announced today that Carla Sparkler, former Chief Marketing Officer of BioTek reMEDys Inc. (BioTek), located in New Castle, Delaware, has agreed to resolve allegations that she violated the False Claims Act by paying kickbacks to patients and physicians and waiving co-pays to protect BioTek’s revenue stream. Sparkler agreed to a six-year federal healthcare exclusion, which will prohibit her from participating in any federally funded health care program, such as Medicare.

When a Medicare beneficiary obtains a prescription drug covered by Medicare, the beneficiary may be required to make a partial payment, which may take the form of a copayment, coinsurance or a deductible (“copays”). Congress included copay requirements in the Medicare program in part to serve as a check on health care costs. The Federal Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits the offering, paying, soliciting or accepting, directly or indirectly, of any remuneration – which includes money or any other thing of value – to refer or arrange for the referral of items or services payable by any federal health care program. This prohibition extends to companies that routinely waive the copays of Medicare patients without determination of financial need. The Anti-Kickback Statute also extends to the payment of remuneration to physicians in exchange for patient referrals.

In its Complaint in Intervention, the United States alleged that, from at least August 2015 through May 2020, Sparkler served as the Chief Marketing Officer of Biotek. BioTek, a specialty pharmacy that offers drugs and infusion services, routinely waived the copayments of Medicare and TRICARE patients to induce those patients to purchase its drugs and services. Many of the specialty drugs offered by BioTek were expensive and required patients to pay large copays. The government alleged that BioTek sought to avoid deterring patients from purchasing its drugs and services by engaging in a scheme, orchestrated, and implemented by Sparkler, to routinely waive these large copays, without regard for whether the patients were experiencing financial hardship.

Today’s settlement also resolves allegations that under Sparkler’s leadership, BioTek provided remuneration in the form of gifts, dinners, and free administrative and clinical support services to physicians – in particular Dr. David Tabby, who operated a neurology practice in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania – to induce those physicians to refer patients to BioTek. The government also alleged that Dr. Tabby knowingly solicited and accepted this remuneration in exchange for referring numerous patients to BioTek. Dr. Tabby has separately paid $480,000 to settle these allegations, based on his ability to pay. Biotek and its chief executive officer, Chaitanya Gadde, previously agreed collectively to pay $20 million based on their ability to pay to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by paying kickbacks to patients and physicians to protect Biotek’s revenue stream.

“Ms. Sparkler allegedly orchestrated a scheme to provide improper physician inducements and to cover up kickbacks for patient referrals by waiving co-pays,” said Romero, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (EDPA). “The six-year exclusion from participation in federal health care programs reflects my office’s commitment to holding individuals accountable for improper and corrupt business practices. BioTek’s alleged scheme, orchestrated and implemented by Sparkler to routinely waive these copays – without regard for whether the patients were experiencing financial hardship – ensured a steady revenue stream for BioTek and undermined patient care to citizens of this District. EDPA will continue to invest itself in the pursuit of health care providers, including individuals, who violate the law for personal gain.”

“This settlement resolves allegations that Ms. Sparkler orchestrated Biotek’s scheme to provide kickbacks, including the improper waiver of co-pays, to encourage doctors to use its services,” said U.S. Attorney David C. Weiss for the District of Delaware. “Those who, for personal gain, flout the rules established by federal healthcare programs raise the costs for everyone and do a disservice to their patients. They forfeit their right to participate in those programs.”

“Kickbacks impose hidden costs on the health care system and compromise medical decision-making,” said Special Agent in Charge Maureen R. Dixon for the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG). “Alongside our law enforcement partners, HHS-OIG is committed to safeguarding the integrity of federal health care programs by, in part, holding individuals who unlawfully bill the programs accountable for their actions.”

“The settlement agreement announced today demonstrates our ongoing commitment to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate healthcare fraud and protect TRICARE, the healthcare system for military members and their dependents,” stated Special Agent in Charge Patrick J. Hegarty of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the law enforcement arm of the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General. “When health care companies pay physicians and submit false claims for improper referrals, they undermine the integrity of TRICARE and place an unnecessary financial burden on the program.”

The civil settlement includes the resolution of claims brought under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act by former BioTek employees Shantae M. Wyatt and Latoya Sparrow. Under those provisions, a private party, known as a relator, may file an action on behalf of the United States and receive a portion of any recovery. The qui tam case is captioned United States of America ex rel. Wyatt et al. v. BioTek reMEDys, Inc., No. 19-6069 (EDPA). The relators in this case were represented by David A. Bocian and Asher S. Alavi of Kessler, Topaz, Meltzer & Check in Radnor, PA.

The resolutions obtained in this matter were the result of a coordinated effort among the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Delaware, the Justice Department’s Civil Division, Commercial Litigation Branch, and Fraud Section, the HHS-OIG, the Office of Inspector General for the Office of Personnel Management, and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service.

This case illustrates the government’s emphasis on combating healthcare fraud. One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act. Tips and complaints from all sources about potential fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement can be reported to the Department of Health and Human Services at 800‑HHS‑TIPS (800-447-8477).

The matter was handled by U.S. Attorney Jacqueline Romero, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Charlene Keller Fullmer and Judith Amorosa, and Auditor George Niedzwicki for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Dylan Steinberg for the District of Delaware.

The claims asserted by the United States are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.

Updated February 16, 2024