Investigators search genetic testing company, doctors’ offices as part of fraud investigation

DNA
Federal investigators executed a search warrant at Proove Biosciences as part of a healthcare fraud investigation.

Federal investigators this week searched a genetic testing company’s corporate offices in California as well as a number of physician offices, as an investigation continues into the company that came under scrutiny for paying doctors to press patients into testing.

FBI agents and officers from the inspector general’s office of the Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday searched the offices of Proove Biosciences, a DNA testing lab in Irvine, and took away boxes of documents as part of a healthcare fraud investigation, according to what former employees told STAT. Federal agents also raided the offices of doctors affiliated with the company in California, Florida, and Kentucky, the former employees told the publication.

Earlier this year the FBI and the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services began investigating Proove, a company that offers a test to determine a patient’s likelihood of becoming addicted to opioids.

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Proove came under scrutiny for paying doctors to get patients into clinical trials of its tests to predict their addiction risk. A company brochure 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. A doctor could earn $144,000 a year in “research fees,” a STAT investigation found. 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.

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

As for the action by investigators Wednesday, FBI spokeswoman Cathy Kramer told reporters that the investigation involved “healthcare fraud,” that no arrests had yet been made, and the affidavit supporting the search warrant was under seal, STAT said.

Proove released a statement late Thursday, saying, “Yesterday, federal agents came to the Irvine, California office of Proove Biosciences to serve a subpoena and execute a search warrant solely related to the collection of documents. This action was initiated by the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Southern District of California in San Diego. In the spirit of full cooperation, we have accommodated their requests. Despite some of the media coverage of this event, there was no “raid”, nor have there been any “arrests” or “indictments” issued. We will continue to cooperate with any future requests for information from the government.”

In a statement on its web site, Proove called the STAT reports “hit pieces” and said terminated employees and consultants are spreading “falsehoods.”

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.