Monday, March 30, 2015
Joplin oncologist pleads guilty to dispensing illegal drugs to cancer patients
An oncologist who operated a clinic in Joplin, Mo., pleaded guilty in federal court today to dispensing foreign, misbranded drugs to his cancer patients.
Robert L. Carter, 74, of Carthage, Mo., waived his right to a grand jury and pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge David P. Rush to a federal information that charges him with buying and selling misbranded prescription drugs.
Carter was the president and medical practitioner of Robert L. Carter, M.D., in Joplin, from Oct. 23, 1991, to April 2, 2012. As a medical oncologist, Carter provided care and treatment for patients with cancer and blood diseases. The practice purchased prescription drugs, including chemotherapy drugs, which were prescribed by Carter and were administered and dispensed through the practice. Reimbursement for the drugs and their administration was sought from the Medicare and Medicaid programs, Tricare as well as other private health care benefit programs.
In April 2010, Dr. Carter began ordering prescription cancer drugs from Quality Specialty Products (QSP) in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. QSP sold drugs – which had been obtained from foreign sources and which had not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for distribution or use in the United States – to physicians and other health care providers in the United States.
QSP shipped misbranded and FDA-unapproved drugs to Carter at his practice in Joplin. These misbranded and FDA-unapproved drugs were administered to Carter’s cancer patients and Carter was reimbursed by government and private health insurance programs.
The labeling for the prescription drugs that Carter purchased from QSP was different than the versions of the drugs the FDA had approved for distribution in the United States. Among other things, they did not have labels bearing the symbol “Rx only,” and the labeling for some of the drugs was in one or more foreign languages. Some of the prescription drugs lacked mixing and use instructions in the English language.
Carter paid $971,854 in restitution today to Medicare, Tri-Care, Missouri Medicaid, Oklahoma Medicaid and Kansas Medicaid. Under the terms of today’s plea agreement, Carter also must forfeit to the government $1.2 million, of which $228,145 was paid today, representing the proceeds from his scheme. Carter is subject to a sentence of up to one year in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $100,000. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Abram McGull, II. It was investigated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General.