Commonwealth Journal

Local News

June 4, 2014

Physician pays $2 million settlement

Somerset —

A local doctor has reached a settlement with the U.S. government in a case involving allegations of giving patients non-FDA approved drugs.
According to Kerry Harvey, chief attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District in Kentucky, Dr. N. Mullai and her office have agreed to pay the government $2 million to settle allegations that her oncology practice was purchasing foreign chemotherapy drugs.
Mullai treats patients at Hematology & Oncology Center PLLC in Somerset.
Harvey stated that the drugs bought from foreign sources can be purchased cheaper, but that U.S. law requires all drugs be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and purchased domestically. 
“These drugs were used on patients, but the government alleged that the oncology center billed these drugs to Medicare as if they had been purchased domestically and were the FDA-approved version of the drugs,” said Harvey.
The U.S. attorney said that the case was settled “a little earlier this year,” but was unable to immediately provide any specific dates. 
He said there was a “fairly lengthy, significant investigation” into the allegations and that ‘we were able to reach a reasonable result for all involved.”
Mullai’s husband Natarajan Murugesan, the practice’s office manager, was also involved in the case and pleaded guilty along with the business to a federal misdemeanor charged but haven’t been sentenced, according to a report last week in the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Harvey said that civil settlement not only compensates taxpayers for billings that allegedly shouldn’t have been made but also seeks to “deter this sort of thing in the future” and enhance patient safety.
“While drugs purchased from foreign sources are ostensibly the same drugs, they’re not FDA approved. They don’t have the same level of oversight,” he said. “Patient safety considerations that underpin laws are always involved in this. We take this sort of thing pretty seriously.”
 
Chris Harris is a staff writer for the Commonwealth Journal. He can be reached at charris@somerset-kentucky.com.

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