Los Angeles pharmacy owner pleads guilty to $14M kickback scheme

A pharmacy owner in Los Angeles has pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges stemming from a $14 million scheme to pay illegal kickbacks for patient referrals and fraudulently paying patients' prescription copayments. 

The pharmacy owner, Navid Vahedi, pleaded guilty Feb. 5 to one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and payment of illegal remunerations. He also entered a guilty plea on behalf of the pharmacy, Fusion Rx Compounding Pharmacy. 

Mr. Vahedi admitted to routing millions of dollars in kickback payments to steer prescriptions for drugs to Fusion Rx, according to the U.S. Justice Department. He and two marketers provided physicians with preprinted prescription pads with "check-the-box" options to maximize the amount of insurance reimbursements he received for the drugs. 

Between May 2014 and February 2016, Fusion Rx received about $14 million in reimbursements on its claims for prescriptions. 

Because copayments might discourage patients from requesting expensive compounded drugs, Fusion Rx at times didn't collect copayments and in some instances provided gift cards to patients to offset the costs of copayments, according to the Justice Department. 

Mr. Vahedi submitted claims on prescriptions to insurers, falsely representing that patients had paid the copayments, the Justice Department said. 

He is scheduled to be sentenced June 28 and faces a maximum of five years in federal prison. He agreed to pay a restitution of $4,405,926 and forfeit $1,338,511. He also agreed to have his pharmacist license revoked, and Fusion Rx will be excluded from participating in Medicare and Medicaid programs. 

Read the full news release here

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