Two Indian-American doctors from Northeast Ohio and two drug company salesmen were indicted in federal court for their roles in an alleged kickback conspiracy in which, according to prosecutors, the doctors received money and other things of value in exchange for writing prescriptions of Nuedexta for patients that did not have the condition.
Named in the 83-count indictment are Dr. Deepak Raheja, 63, of Hudson; Dr. Bhupinder Sawhny, 70, of Gates Mills; Gregory Hayslette, 43, of Aurora; and Frank Mazzucco, 41, of Dublin. Dr. Raheja specialized in psychiatry and neurology with a practice in Cleveland, Ohio. Dr. Sawhny specialized in neurosurgery with a practice in Parma, Ohio.
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
They were charged with an alleged conspiracy to solicit, receive, offer and pay health care kickbacks, according to a Sept. 26, 2019, press release from the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.
Hayslette worked as a pharmaceutical sales representative for Avanir Pharmaceuticals, Inc. from June 2015 through September 2016. Mazzucco was the regional business manager and supervised Hayslette.
Nuedexta, a drug approved by the FDA solely to treat pseudobulbar affect (PBA), was promoted by Avanir. Psuedobulbar or PBA is a condition characterized by involuntary, sudden and frequent episodes of uncontrollable laughing and crying, according to the indictment.)
According to the indictment from 2011 to 2016, Raheja allegedly wrote approximately 10,088 Nuedexta prescriptions – the highest in the country,.
Hayslette and Mazzucco arranged speaker’s bureau programs for Raheja, Sawhny and other medical professionals relating to Nuedexta, and allegedly facilitating the submission of false and fictitious sign-in sheets from speaking engagements to justify the event and maximize payments and other benefits to Raheja and Sawhny, prosecutors say in the indictment.
Hayslette is alleged to have offered free firearms training, office equipment and other things of value to Sawhny, the indictment says, including coffee, breakfast, lunch and other food and beverage to Raheja, Sawhny and their office staff, usually with little to no substantive discussion about Nuedexta.
The indictment says that part of the ‘conspiracy’ was that Raheja and Sawhny took steps in return for things of value, such as – writing more Nuedexta prescriptions resulting in billings to Medicare and Medicaid for Nuedexta prescriptions for patients that did not have PBA; and that Raheja and Sawhny also allegedly submitted and caused the submission of materially false and fictitious prior authorizations to Medicaid MCOs that reflected diagnoses of PBA for patients that did not actually have PBA, the indictment says.