Indictment Charges Docs in Alleged Kickback Scheme
Four physicians have been named as defendants in an alleged kickback scheme involving Alexandria, Virginia-based Physical Medical Associates, Ltd., Rockville, Maryland-based National Spine and Pain Center, LLC, and Irvine, California-based Proove Biosciences, Inc.
The charges were brought in the United States District Court for the Central District of California. The indictment charged the following executives from Proove: CEO Brian J. Meshkin; VP of Finance Steven S. Fichtelberg; VP of Commercial Operations Kirt T. Pfaff; and VP (in various roles) Bruce W. Gardner.
The indictment also charged the following physicians and shareholders from Physical Medical Associates: Daniel R. Kendall, M.D.; Abraham A. Cherrick, M.D.; and Assaf T. Gordon, M.D. Physical Medical Associates was affiliated with the administrative services organization, National Spine and Pain Center. Furthermore, the indictment charged National Spine and Pain Center’s board of directors member and Chief Medical Officer Lester A. Zuckerman. According to court documents, the physicians of Physical Medical Associates provided medical care at Virginia-based locations under the brand name “National Spine & Pain Center.”
Proove was a biosciences company which, according to court documents, offered several pharmacogenetic tests. The tests “purportedly determined a patient’s risk of abusing certain prescription opioids and how patients metabolized certain drugs.” Proove sold and marketed the tests to pain management physicians.
The government alleged that, from 2013 to 2017, Meshkin engaged in a scheme to “induce physicians to order Proove’s genetic tests for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.” The scheme purportedly involved paying physicians $100 to $150 for each test. The defendants allegedly “falsely characterized the payments as clinical research fees.”
The government further alleges that, from 2013 and 2017, “Medicare paid Proove approximately $20 million” for genetic tests that were “tainted by illegal kickbacks.” During that same time, the government claims that Proove paid doctors “at least $3.5 million in kickbacks to induce them to order Proove’s genetic tests.” The government further asserts that Proove paid physicians at National Spine and Pain Center “a total of $1.1 million in kickbacks.”