SACRAMENTO, California: United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced Tuesday that Prabhjit S. Purewal, M.D., a Manteca-based oncologist, agreed to pay the United States $550,000 to settle allegations that he defrauded Medicare, Tricare and Medicaid by billing these public insurers for chemotherapy drugs the US Food and Drug Administration had not approved for use in the United States. Dr. Purewal has paid the United States $400,000 to date.
The settlement resolves the United States’ contentions that Dr. Purewal had, over a two-year period ending in May 2011, purchased chemotherapy drugs from Warwick Healthcare Solutions, Inc., also known as Richard’s Pharma (“Warwick”), administered the drugs to his patients, and improperly sought and received reimbursement for the drugs from Medicare and other public insurers. Warwick, a former United Kingdom-based drug distributer, did not have a license to distribute drugs in the United States, and many of the drugs Dr. Purewal purchased from Warwick were not FDA-approved. The FDA regulates pharmaceuticals in the US to ensure the drugs are safe and effective. The United States contended that by claiming and receiving reimbursement from Medicare, Tricare, and Medicaid for these drugs, Dr. Purewal violated the federal False Claims Act.
“Investigating healthcare related fraud allegations is one of our District’s top priorities,” said U.S. Attorney Wagner. “My office works closely with our federal and state partners to ensure that our publicly funded healthcare insurers reimburse practitioners only for approved services and medicines.”
“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.”
“Ensuring that patients receive FDA-approved prescription drugs from the legitimate supply chain is an FDA priority,” said Lisa Malinowski, Special Agent in Charge of the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations. “For drugs that enter the U.S. from outside that protected system, there is no guarantee that the drug is FDA-approved, not counterfeit, or otherwise lacks safety or effectiveness. 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.”