PITTSBURGH – Thomas Whitten, a physician, located in Westmoreland County, has been charged with four counts of conspiracy with intentions to distribute the synthetic opioid, fentanyl. The schedule II drug is known to be up to 100 times stronger than morphine. The 69-year-old Westmorland resident has been accused of violating the Anti-Kickback Statute and could face up to 40 years behind bars for defrauding the health care system.
Fentanyl, a medication commonly used to treat severe cancer pain or to manage pain post-surgery, was used by Whitten to get kickbacks from Insys Therapeutics. This announcement came from Scott W. Brady, a United States Attorney in Pennsylvania. Brady stated there was a total of four indictments against Whitten, ranging from illegal fentanyl distribution to defrauding the healthcare system.
From May 2013 up to November 2015, Whitten allegedly conspired with Insys Therapeutics to prescribe fentanyl in the form of Subsys, with Whitten getting kickbacks from these prescriptions. May of 2013, up to March of 2017, saw Whitten committed alleged health care fraud when he was responsible for forcing insurers to pay for Subsys prescriptions.
Subsys, an opioid usually involved in cancer pain, is a non-aerosol that is sprayed into the mouth, under the tongue. The drug takes effect within seconds.
In the final indictment, Whitten is accused of distributing the weight loss drugs, phentermine hydrochloride as well as diethylpropion from November 2017 up to December 12, 2019.
Depending on the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Whitten may face no less than 5 years in prison with a maximum penalty reaching 40 years. A potential $5,000,000 fine may also be imposed on the defendant. The harshness of the sentence would be based on the number of offenses as well as the severity of the offense.
The investigation was led by a joint effort with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Agency as well as the Attorney General’s Office in Pennsylvania along with the United States Department of Health and Human Services and resulted in the apprehension of Thomas Whitten.
The Western Pennsylvania Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, which was formed in 2017 to tackle the opioid fraud pandemic, played a vital part in the investigation that led to charges being filed against Whitten.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Cindy K. Chung, along with Karen Gal-Or, will be responsible for the prosecution on the government’s behalf. Joining the FBI and DEA will be the Pennsylvania Bureau of Licensing, the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations branch, and the Food and Drug Administrations’ Criminal Investigation office.
Fentanyl abuse affects millions of Americans every year and has steadily been rising since the 1990s. If you have been a victim of fentanyl abuse or know of any medical professionals involved in the illicit market call us now at 888-402-4054.
Make sure that you have the best cover possible when it comes to taking care of your health. Dedicated lawyers at the Healthcare Fraud Group are standing by to help you get the best result possible.