Elizabethtown cancer clinic pays $3.7 million to resolve claims it diluted drugs, prolonged chemotherapy to make more money

Elizabethtown Hematology Oncology PLC and its owners has paid $3,739,325 to settle claims “that they submitted false claims for payment to the Medicare, Medicaid and the military’s medical provider for extending the duration of chemotherapy infusion treatment to patients and inappropriately billing office visits for infusion therapy,” Andrew Wolfson reports for The Courier-Journal.

“To subject cancer patients to unnecessary treatments that are physically draining and emotionally stressful is utterly unconscionable,” said Patrick McFarland, inspector general of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

The settlement agreement not only explains that the clinic’s owners, Dr. Rafiz Ur Rahman and Dr. Yusuf K. Deshmukh, extended the time period of chemotherapy and infusion treatments for patients just to make more money but also says the clinic wrongly billed for office evaluations of patients getting chemotherapy, Wolfson writes.

“Manipulating treatment protocols and lengthening infusion times to increase reimbursement reflect an extraordinary lack or regard for patient welfare and the integrity of our health care system,” David Hale, U.S. attorney for the western half of Kentucky, said in a news release.

In 2011, Dr. Ijaz Mahmood of Elizabethtown filed a lawsuit against the clinic, saying it created written protocols designed to prolong chemotherapy infusion times “by a factor of three or more beyond what is generally recognized.” Mahmood said Deshmukh and Rahman provided patients with the correct dose of chemotherapy but administered it over a longer period of time by diluting it. They could make more money that way because Medicaid and Medicare pay partially based on how long a procedure takes.

Aside from the $3.7 million payment, the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will monitor the clinic for three years. The clinic will still be allowed to bill federal medical programs, Wolfson writes. The government could still potentially prosecute the doctors. (Read more)

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