Georgia physician allegedly submitted 4,500 false claims for unnecessary lead poisoning treatments

Federal investigators allege Charles Adams, MD, a physician in Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., injected thousands of patients with a lead poisoning treatment they didn't need, and billed the government $1.5 million for medically unnecessary treatments.

Here are six things to know:

1. Dr. Adams allegedly provided patients with medically unnecessary chelation therapy, a treatment generally only provided to patients suffering from heavy metal poisoning, of which lead poisoning is the most common subset.

2. Although Dr. Adams used the diagnostic codes associated with lead poisoning the patients he treated were not suffering from lead poisoning, according to the complaint. This was evidenced by the patients' blood lead levels, which were allegedly far below the levels warranting chelation.

3. Medicare covers the use of chelation to treat lead poisoning and lead encephalopathy, but Dr. Adams allegedly used chelation as a form of "alternative" or "experimental" therapy for a variety of conditions, including "excess body burden of heavy metal." Dr. Adams admitted to federal investigators he does not treat lead poisoning or lead toxicity.

4. To circumvent the coverage exclusions, Dr. Adams allegedly mischaracterized the alternative chelation treatments as medically necessary treatments for patients.

5. "In the approximately 4,500 claims that he caused to be submitted [to] Medicare, Dr. Adams — through the use of diagnostic codes associated with lead poisoning and/or other types of HMP — falsely represented that the claims were for medically necessary chelations to treat patients suffering from lead poisoning or other forms of HMP," states the complaint.

6. About $1.2 million of the $1.5 million in chelation-related claims Dr. Adams submitted or caused to be submitted to Medicare between November 2008 and September 2015 contained a diagnosis associated with lead poisoning, according to the complaint.

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