Here’s a story you hope never happens to you or anyone you love: An oncologist in Florida has been accused of prescribing medication for her cancer patients that had not been approved by the FDA.
The dicey treatments included chemotherapy, as reported by the Associated Press (AP).
For six years, said federal health officials, patients of Dr. Diana Anda Norbergs at East Lake Oncology in Tampa didn’t know they were getting less expensive, misbranded drugs that weren’t registered or approved for use in the U.S. Norbergs is charged with billing Medicare – that is, taxpayers – as well as private insurance companies for the illegal prescriptions, which she allegedly claimed were known, FDA-approved drugs. According to ABC News, Norbergs pocketed more with $700,000 from the considerable difference in price.
“The purity and efficacy of these drugs were of the utmost importance for patient care,” prosecutors said in the indictment.
Norbergs was charged with 12 counts of health-care fraud and nine counts of receiving misbranded drugs in interstate commerce.
Authorities said Norbergs purchased some drugs from overseas that also were sold in the U.S. under different names. Many were administered through an IV.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, the feds warned Norbergs three years ago about making purchases from a foreign distributor known to have sold a counterfeit version of the chemotherapy drug Altuzan.
AP quoted Shimon R. Richmond, special agent in charge of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, as saying, “Allegations don’t get much more serious than this, that a physician gave unapproved, discounted drugs to her cancer patients without their knowledge and billed Medicare as if she had provided more costly FDA-approved drugs. The crimes alleged here violate laws meant to protect the health of patients, in this case patients fighting cancer, as well as the integrity of the Medicare program.”
No one knows what effect the sketchy drugs have had on patient health, but the feds are reaching out to people who have been treated at East Lake Oncology since 2009.