The federal government is now targeting physicians who buy prescription drugs from companies outside of the United States and then offer them to their patients, even though the medicines were not manufactured in facilities inspected or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as required by law. The federal cases involve brand-name drugs, such as the cancer treatments Avastin and Rituxan, which were imported from Turkey, India, the European Union or other countries, but were not approved for import or sale in the United States.
Recent cases against two East Tennessee cancer doctors, for instance, have brought convictions, with one defendant serving a two-year federal prison term and the other still awaiting sentencing.
In the East Tennessee cases, the imported drugs were administered intravenously to cancer patients in clinics in Greeneville and Johnson City.
A Johnson City doctor is accused of billing insurers Medicare and TennCare at full price for the drugs he bought at a lesser price from an importer so he could make a larger profit.
The doctor, William R. Kincaid, 70, pleaded guilty in November 2012 to a single count of “receiving in interstate commerce a misbranded drug with intent to defraud or mislead,” and thereby avoided an indictment and trial. He was sentenced in June to the two-year term, which he’s serving at a federal prison in Montgomery, Ala., and also fined $10,000. The government alleged that he bought $2 million worth of unauthorized drugs from Quality Specialty Products in Winnipeg, Canada, and then billed Medicare and other insurers $2.5 million for the medicines over a period from 2007 to 2012. The drugs were dispensed through Kincaid’s McLeod Cancer and Blood Center in Johnson City.
So far there has been no systematic examination of how many physicians are buying medications in Canada and billing Medicare.
Jeffrey Newman represents whistleblowers