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KEEPING HEALTH CARE HEALTHY:
FBI Polices Counterfeit Pharmaceutical Beat

10/22/03

Pharmaceutical Fraud graphicFraud in the area of health care produces fearful losses for the government (Medicare and Medicaid programs) and private health insurers -- estimated at over $100 billion last year alone. But no one can estimate the fearful cost to people's health and peace of mind -- that cost is incalculable.

That's why health care fraud is such an important jurisdiction for the FBI. Last year alone, we had over 2,400 pending cases... and closed over 550 cases with either convictions or pre-trial diversions.

What kind of cases? All kinds. False billings from doctors and dentists. In psychiatric and acute care. In durable medical equipment and from supply companies, pharmacies, and laboratories. Just to name a few.

In Operation Goldpill -- investigated by 17 different FBI field offices over a 3-year period -- pharmacy fraud was targeted. In the end, we uncovered fake prescriptions, false Medicaid billings, unnecessary medical testing, and the illegal sale of prescription drugs to street vendors and corrupt pharmacists. Over 200 pharmacists and others were arrested and convicted before the case was closed.

One last case to leave you with: Operation Cottonmouth. This case originated in San Diego as a joint case between the FBI and the Federal Drug Administration. It concerned Serostim, a hormone medication developed, approved, and sold for the treatment of wasting disease in AIDS patients. How did it work? By stimulating muscle development.

Aha! said some unscrupulous individuals, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. Assured of blackmarket sales to bodybuilders, they "made" a fake version, leaving out the key ingredient, and packaged it with bogus labels that looked like they came from the laboratories that were approved to produce the real thing.

When the arrests were made last year, hundreds of vials were seized...and agents intercepted 6,000 more that had been ordered from an unwitting firm in Oregon. Three of the men have pled guilty; a fourth awaits trial. The case continues.