New Jersey physician charged in $20M telehealth scheme involving expensive pain cream prescriptions

Telemedicine doctor
An elaborate telehealth scheme involving high-priced pain and scar creams targeted patients with Tricare. (shironosov/Getty)

A New Jersey doctor has been arrested for fraudulently prescribing $20 million worth of compounded medications through an elaborate telehealth scheme.

Bernard Ogon, M.D., a family medicine and geriatric physician in Burlington, New Jersey, was arrested on Friday for his role in a scheme that involved five different telehealth companies. According to federal prosecutors, Ogon was paid by the telehealth firms to prescribe exorbitantly priced pain creams, scar creams, migraine creams and so-called “wellness capsules” without evaluating patients.

In many instances, the telemedicine companies that were paying Ogon $20 to $30 per prescription sent him prescriptions that already included patient information and the types of compounded medications to prescribe, according to prosecutors. Ogon simply had to sign the form.

Ogon “received little or no information about the patients before he signed the prescriptions,” according to the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Last week, the CEO of telehealth company HealthRight pleaded guilty to a $1 billion fraud scheme that sold unnecessary pain creams and dietary supplements to patients.

RELATED: Telehealth company HealthRight charged in $1B fraud scheme

A complaint (PDF) filed by Eric Eccleston, a special agent with the FBI, did not name the five telemedicine companies involved in the scheme. The filing indicates the companies were located in Georgia, Texas, and Florida.

Patients were referred to the telehealth companies through a web of so-called “marketing companies” affiliated with compounding pharmacies, according to the complaint. The marketing companies targeted beneficiaries with health plans that covered the compounded medications, including Tricare, which has been victimized by compound schemes in the past.

Rather than pass the prescriptions back to the patient, the companies steered prescriptions to certain compounding pharmacies that were in on the scheme.

One example outlined in the complaint shows Ogon allegedly prescribed one patient two creams for more than $4,500. Another patient was prescribed a pain cream and wellness capsules for more than $7,600.