A well-known California AIDS doctor accused of “subdosing” his patients - giving them less than the prescribed amount of medication to boost his profits - has been indicted on federal charges.
Dr. George Kooshian, who has twice been sued over subdosing claims and settled both cases out of court, was indicted on Wednesday on 25 counts of health-care fraud, three counts of making false statements and one count of conspiracy.
“It’s pretty egregious because you are talking about people’s health here,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeanie Joseph said of the accusations against Kooshian, 54, who has been ordered to appear in court on August 1.
Kooshian’s former assistant, 45-year-old Virgil Opinion, was also named in the indictment but indicated a willingness to cooperate with prosecutors, she said.
The indictment charges Kooshian with ordering Opinion and other employees at two clinics he operated in Los Angeles and Orange Counties to subdose patients he was treating for AIDS, HIV and hepatitis.
According to the indictment, patients received one-half to one-quarter of the doses they were prescribed and in some cases were given only saline or water. Kooshian then billed insurance companies for the full doses and continued to submit claims even after patients stopped taking the medication, the indictment said.
It was Opinion who first alerted authorities to the suspected subdosing, coming forward after he was fired.
“He claimed his conscience was killing him,” Joseph said. Opinion and one of Kooshian’s patients each sued the doctor, who settled both cases out of court.
Kooshian and Opinion each face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for each of the 25 health-care fraud counts and 5 years in prison for the conspiracy count and each of the false statement counts.
Revision date: July 6, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD