Sandusky physician charged with prescribing medically unnecessary controlled substances and health care fraud
Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Brennan announced that a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Gregory J. Gerber, 55, of Port Clinton, Ohio, with 51 counts of distribution of controlled substances and two counts of health care fraud. According to the indictment, the Defendant was a licensed medical physician practicing in Sandusky, Ohio, specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation and anesthesiology with a sub-specialty in pain medicine.
“The Northern District of Ohio, like many districts throughout the country, continues to combat a staggering opioid crisis," said Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Brennan. “A common theme in this crisis is that many who now struggle with opioid use disorder do so because of a physician who unlawfully prescribed medically unnecessary opioid prescriptions or, in some cases, over-prescribed in a medically unnecessary way. Physicians alleged to have engaged in such conduct will be held accountable."
"Healthcare fraud impacts the cost of medical care and more importantly, puts patients at risk," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric B. Smith. " Dr. Gerber allegedly abused his oath by prescribing unnecessary medications, causing harm to his patients, and over billed medical visits. "Dr. Gerber is accused of contributing to the growing opioid epidemic thru his dangerous, criminal behavior and will now be held accountable.
“Issuing prescriptions outside the usual course of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose only aggravates the ongoing opioid epidemic,” said Lamont Pugh III, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Inspector General – Chicago Region. “Medical professionals are relied upon to perform appropriate physical exams, establish evidence-based, objective diagnoses, and prescribe medications only in a manner that will aid their patients. The OIG continues to investigate instances of alleged improper prescribing that potentially harms patients and wastes vital taxpayer dollars.”
“More Ohioans are dying from opioid overdoses than at any point in this devastating epidemic and this doctor helped put us here one prescription at a time,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said. “Ending this scheme was vital to an area that has been devastated by the opioid crisis.”
The indictment states that the Defendant repeatedly prescribed controlled substances outside the usual course of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose, including powerful painkillers such as fentanyl, oxycodone, oxymorphone and other drugs. It further alleges that from January 2010 through August 2018, the Defendant devised a scheme to defraud federal health care benefit programs by causing insurers to pay for medically unnecessary controlled substance prescriptions.
As part of the scheme, Defendant improperly performed patient physical and historical examinations, failed to establish evidence-based, objective diagnoses, and used these diagnoses to prescribe excessive doses of controlled substances for long periods of time without evidence of efficacy and while ignoring signs of addiction and drug abuse among his patients. It is also alleged that the Defendant improperly sought reimbursement from Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers using billing codes that reflected a service more costly than what was performed.
The indictment states that as part of the scheme, the Defendant wrote over approximately 835 prescriptions for Subsys, a fentanyl-based cancer pain treatment medication manufactured by Insys Therapeutics, Inc. According to the indictment, some of the prescriptions written for Subsys were medically unnecessary and for patients who did not have cancer pain. It is alleged that the Defendant received compensation from Insys by participating in the company’s speakers bureau, a program that paid representatives to engage with other medical professionals and promote the Subsys medication.
While working as an Insys speaker, it is alleged that the Defendant received between approximately $1,500 and $3,700 per engagement, totaling approximately $175,000 in payments and other items of value.
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
If convicted, the Defendant’s sentence will be determined by the Court after review of factors unique to this case, including the Defendant’s prior criminal record, if any, the Defendant’s role in the offense, and the characteristics of the violation.
In all cases, the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum, and in most cases, it will be less than the maximum.
This case was investigated by the Cleveland Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General, Ohio Attorney General’s Healthcare Fraud Section and Ohio Board of Pharmacy. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Megan R. Miller.