Sarasota, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) – Pain management specialists have been under the Justice Department’s radar for the last couple of years, especially in cases involving spinal facet injections. While CMS does cover facet injections in certain cases, other payers believe there is insufficient evidence of efficacy. However, some providers may be using it as an opportunity to commit fraud.
Last month, pain specialist Francisco Patino, MD of Wayne County, Michigan was convicted of over $100 million in fraud. Originally charged in February last year, Patino was formerly convicted of a slew of charges, including one count each for money laundering, conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to defraud the United States and pay and receive health care kickbacks, conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, and two counts of health care fraud.
According to the case, Patino performed spinal facet injections that were medically unnecessary in exchange for high dose opioid prescriptions, and continued to do even after CMS notified him that that the injections violated Medicare’s rules, and after he entered into a consent order with the state for his prescription practices. According to a report from the Detroit News, this case is in connection with another grisly case from earlier this year in which patients of Mashiyat Rashid experienced holes in their backs from coerced unnecessary spinal injections.
Per the indictment, from 2016 to 2017, Patino was the top prescriber in Michigan for oxycodone 30 mg, and prescribed 2.2 million dosage units of controlled substances, including fentanyl, oxymorphone, and oxycodone. Additionally, much of the drugs he prescribed were also being re-sold on the street.
Additionally, Patino owned several pain clinics and labs and would often refer patients in exchange for kickbacks. Patino made a concerted effort to disguise his ownership.
To further complicate matters, Patino initiated a weight loss scheme as a vehicle for money laundering. He came up with the “Patino Plan”, which claimed to be the next Atkins diet sensation and paid to produce the 2013 book “The Age of Globesity”. Additionally, he paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote the book and gain a spot on nationally syndicated television show. To promote his diet system, he also entered into false sponsorship agreements with UFC, martial arts, and boxer athletes, when in fact he was pocketing the proceeds to live a very extravagant lifestyle that included numerous trips to the Cayman islands, following suit with Mashiyat Rashid.
Patino is scheduled for sentencing on January 20th of next year. He could face a maximum of life in prison.