Genetic lab under scrutiny for paying doctors to press patients into testing

A California company that offers genetic testing is under scrutiny for its relationship with doctors.

A California medical laboratory that offers genetic testing has come under scrutiny for paying doctors to get patients into clinical trials of its tests to predict their addiction risk.

A brochure from Proove Bioscience offered to pay doctors $30 for every patient enrolled in a study of genetic tests aimed at selecting the best pain medication for them and to determine if they might become addicted to opioids, according to a report by STAT, which conducted an investigation into the company’s practices. A doctor could earn $144,000 a year in “research fees,” the publication said.

However, current and former employees of the company told STAT the clinical trial was a ploy to boost revenues and many doctors did no actual work for the money. The STAT investigation found Proove employees went into physicians’ offices and pushed tests on patients.

The publication said legal experts say the company may have violated anti-kickback laws. Proove CEO Brian Meshkin declined STAT’s interview request but said in an email that his company acted within the law.

Employees said the FBI and the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services are now investigating Proove for possible wrongdoing. Both agencies declined to comment on those reports.

Researchers are urging careful use and interpretation of genetic testing. As genetic testing becomes more common, clinicians are trying to determine how best to use the information at the point of care.