A Chicago doctor who took kickbacks from Big Pharma in exchange for prescribing antipsychotic meds is facing some prison time. A U.S. District judge sentenced Dr. Michael Reinstein to 9 months in federal prison after finding that Reinstein accepted payments from companies such as Teva Pharmaceuticals ($TEVA) and Ivax Pharmaceuticals for promoting the drugs to elderly patients.
U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman also ordered the psychiatrist to fork over $592,000 and perform 120 hours of community service once he's completed his prison sentence. The court said that Reinstein prescribed clozapine, known under the brand name Clozaril, to thousands of elderly and indigent patients in Chicago-area nursing homes in hospitals.
In exchange, drugmakers showered Reinstein with gifts including meals, tickets to sporting events, and all-expense-paid vacations. The companies also paid Reinstein consulting fees.
"Reinstein abused his position of public trust as a physician and took advantage of the faith and trust of his mentally ill patients in order to enrich himself," Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Pruitt said in the government's sentencing memorandum, as quoted by the court.
Reinstein prescribed branded Clozaril after less expensive generic versions were available because the drug's manufacturer paid the doc thousands of dollars to promote the med at speaking engagements.
Once his deal with that manufacturer ended, Reinstein agreed to switch his patients to Teva and Ivax's generic version of the drug after the companies said that they would pay him a consulting fee. Teva and Ivax also agreed to finance a clozapine research study performed by a group affiliated with Reinstein.
At one point in the early 2000s, Reinstein was the largest prescriber of clozapine to Medicaid recipients in the U.S., the court said in a statement
This is not Reinstein's first run-in with the law. In 2014, state authorities took away the psychiatrist's medical license, claiming that he took illegal direct and indirect money from three companies that manufacture and market brand-name and generic clozapine.
Last year, the doc pled guilty to one count of violating the federal Medicare and Medicaid Anti-Kickback Statute. Reinstein allegedly submitted at least 50,000 claims to Medicare and Medicare that falsely stated that the clozapine prescriptions were for treating mentally ill patients at more than 30 nursing homes and long-term care facilities in Chicago.
Reinstein, Teva and Ivax have all paid a price for alleged wrongdoing. Reinstein has already agreed to pay $3.79 million to settle a civil lawsuit. In 2014, Teva and Ivax paid the U.S. federal government and the state of Illinois more than $27.6 million to settle state and federal allegations that they bribed Reinstein to prescribe clozapine.
It goes without saying that 72-year-old Reinstein's career is over. His age, along with the loss of his medical license, means that Reinstein will never work again as a psychiatrist, defense attorney Terrence Campbell said, as quoted by Medscape.
"Dr. Reinstein is truly remorseful for his misconduct and the effect it already has had on his family, especially his wife and his former patients," Campbell said. "We can confidently state--and the Court can confidently find--that Reinstein poses no risk of reoffending in any manner."