Probe into Warner Chilcott marketing gets Massachusetts doctor convicted
Guilty After All These Years
Sometimes, old cases resurface in unusual ways. In some cases, the obstruction factor is more serious than the original activity.
In 2015 authorities said that Warner Chilcott, a specialty pharmaceutical company, and its management were paying kickbacks to physicians to get them to write more prescriptions. Currently, Warner Chilcott is part of Allergan after a 2015 megamerger with Actavis, which had bought Warner Chilcott in 2013.
Allergan paid $125 million to resolve the claims. Former Warner Chilcott president W. Carl Reichel famously avoided a conviction, in spite of the fact that then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates asked federal prosecutors to recommend criminal charges for company executives to discourage corporate misbehavior.
A doctor involved in the probe did not fare as well as the executive, according to an article by Eric Sagonowsky in Fierce Pharma. Rita Luthra, M.D., 67, of Longmeadow, Massachusetts, was convicted Monday, April 30, in a Warner Chilcott marketing scheme and the ensuing cover-up of the case. Last week, a federal jury in Massachusetts convicted the doctor of giving a Warner Chilcott sales representative access to patient records from January 2011 through November 2011 and denying her relationship with the company during an investigation, according to the Massachusetts Department of Justice.
Specifically, Dr. Luthra was convicted of one count of violation of the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and one count of obstruction of a criminal health care investigation. U.S. District Court Judge Mark G. Mastroianni has not yet scheduled Luthra’s sentencing. For the obstruction of justice charge, Dr. Luthra could face up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000, according to the Justice Department. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
According to Sagonowsky’s article, a Warner Chilcott representative asked Luthra to be a paid speaker and hold medical education events in her office in 2010. Prosecutors said that there were no other healthcare providers at the supposed educational events. The doctor and the sales representative met for breakfast or lunch in Dr. Luthra’s office. For allegedly hosting approximately 30 of such events, Warner Chilcott paid Dr. Luthra $23,500 in fees. Although the government did not press for a conviction for accepting kickbacks, a jury reached the verdict that Dr. Luthra illegally gave the representative access to patient data.
United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling and Phillip M. Coyne, Special Agent in Charge for the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, made the announcement on April 30. Assistant United States Attorneys Miranda Hooker and Young Paik of Lelling’s Criminal Division are prosecuting the case.