Trial Begins for Doctor Who Gave Unnecessary Chemotherapy Treatments
The sentencing trial for Farid Fata, the disgraced Detroit-area oncologist who pleaded guilty to 13 counts of healthcare fraud in 2014, has begun. The trial began on Monday, July 6, 2015 and is expected to last for several days.
Farid Fata ran Michigan Hematology Oncology Centers, which had seven locations throughout the Metro Detroit area, including Troy, Bloomfield Hills, and Sterling Heights. When patients arrived at his clinics, they commonly thought they were getting the best treatment available. That all changed in July 2013 when the FBI arrested Fata and raided his offices following an investigation that involved interviewing several of his employees.
Fata was accused of bilking Medicare and other insurance companies out of over 100 million dollars between 2007 and 2013 by ordering chemotherapy treatments for patients who didn’t actually have cancer or whose cancer was in remission, prescribing excessive amounts of chemotherapy and other medication, and ordering medically unnecessary tests. Prosecutors have identified 533 victims of Farid Fata, but an assistant U.S. attorney wrote in a sentencing memorandum that because Fata’s scam was so large and lasted so long, the government can’t possibly determine every single instance of fraud and mistreatment. Fata pleaded guilty to 13 counts of healthcare fraud, two counts of money laundering, and one count of conspiring to give/receive kickbacks.
U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade has called this case, “the most egregious health care fraud case her office has ever seen.” In most health care fraud cases, Medicare and/or other insurance companies are the only ones impacted; most health care fraud cases do not involve such blatant medical malpractice of so many patients.
Dozens of Fata’s former patients and family members of his victims will have the chance to testify during the trial. During the first day of the trial, statements provided by former patients and testimony from medical experts began to shed light on exactly how excessive and unnecessary Fata’s treatments were. One victim statement submitted by a patient said he was given 52 treatments of the drug rituxan that were completely unnecessary. Since rituxan compromises the immune system, this patient says he is always sick because he is unable to fight off even common colds and has constant pain in his bones. Another victim who plans to testify said her husband was given 52 chemotherapy treatments by Fata over two years to treat non-Hodgkins large B-cell lymphoma. They later found out 16 chemotherapy treatments is standard. Her husband lived, but is now suffering from chronic health problems because of the treatments.
Dr. Dan Longo, an oncologist from the Boston area, served as an expert witness who reviewed the records of 25 of Fata’s patients. He discussed one case where a patient was treated for pancreatic cancer with 177 chemotherapy treatments over 5 years. Longo said he couldn’t think of any reason why he would ever order such a prolonged amount of chemotherapy treatments for that disease. This patient is still alive, but the treatments damaged his kidneys and caused him to have neuropathy in his feet and legs. Longo called the treatment “beyond aggressive” and “over the top.” Longo was also expressed concern over what he considered excessive prescriptions for anti-nausea medicine and iron treatments for patients with no documented proof of iron deficiencies. In some cases, Longo said patients were given intravenous iron treatments when their iron levels were already at near-toxic levels.
Prosecutors are seeking a 175-year prison sentence for Fata and to repay $17.6 million dollars to Medicaid and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan. Fata’s attorneys are seeking a sentence of no more than 25 years in prison.