Physician Practice Roundup—Brothers sentenced to prison in $100M bribery scheme; clearinghouse for medical guidelines shutting down and more

justice scales and gavel
The sentencing of two brothers to prison brought to a close a healthcare fraud case that resulted in the conviction of 38 doctors. (Getty/BrianAJackson)

Brothers sentenced to prison in $100M bribery scheme of doctors

Two brothers who ran a seven-year, $100 million health fraud scam that resulted in bribery charges against 38 doctors were sentenced to prison yesterday.

David Nicoll received a six-year sentence for his role in the healthcare fraud case and his younger brother Scott received a more than three years sentence. Both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to bribe doctors and money laundering through their now-defunct New Jersey company, Biodiagnostic Laboratory Services.

The scam led to one of the largest ever prosecutions of medical professionals in a bribery case, said U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito. The investigation resulted in the convictions of 53 defendants—38 of them doctors who were paid millions of dollars in bribes for blood sample referrals to the company. (U.S. Attorney’s Office announcement)

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Government clearinghouse for medical guidelines shutting down

Effective July 16, doctors will no longer have access to the government’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s National Guidelines Clearinghouse (NGC).

The site, which draws an average of 200,000 visitors per month, is no longer being funded by the AHRQ, which has undergone budget cuts over the last decade, according to STAT.

Diagnostic and treatment guidelines will still be available on other sites but the NGC made the guidelinesonly included if they met criteria set by the National Academy of Medicineavailable in a single location and summarized the more than 4,000 guidelines it maintained. That made it an indispensable service for physicians who came to the repository seeking information. (STAT article)

With suicide rates on the rise, clinicians need more training to spot the warning signs

New data that show suicide is on the rise across the country and a pair of high-profile celebrity deaths by suicide are putting renewed attention on an issue that can have a profound impact on healthcare professionals.

The latest Vital Signs report from the Centers for Disease Control Prevention provided stunning data which found the suicide rate in the U.S. has increased in almost every state since 1999, and in half of the states by 30% or more in that window. In 2016, at least 45,000 Americans aged 10 or older died by suicide.

The report also found that more than half (54%) of people who die by suicide have no known mental illness diagnosis prior to their deaths. (Fierce Healthcare)

Study finds many common drugs have depression as a potential side effect

A new study raises the question of whether many commonly used drugs may be contributing to depression and could be linked to rising suicide rates.

A study, published in JAMA, found more than one-third of U.S. adults take a medication that has depression as a possible side effect. Researchers looked at 10 years of data collected from more than 26,000 Americans and found a link between the use of medications with the potential to cause depression and the chances of becoming depressed.

Study authors said the results suggest physicians should discuss the association with patients who are prescribed medications that have depression as a potential adverse effect. (JAMA study)