Two doctors from Westchester practicing in Manhattan were among five charged with participating in a bribery and kickback scheme that prosecutors said sought to increase the drug company’s sales while taking advantage of patients, Geoffrey S. Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced Friday.
Gordon Freedman of Mount Kisco and Jeffrey Goldstein of New Rochelle were among the five charged with participating in a scheme to receive bribes and kickbacks in the form of fees for sham educational programs from a pharmaceutical company in exchange for prescribing millions of dollars’ worth of a potent fentanyl-based spray.
Freedman and Goldstein were arrested Friday morning with the charges presented in Manhattan federal court in the afternoon.
"These prominent doctors swore a solemn oath to place their patients’ care above all else. Instead, they engaged in a malignant scheme to prescribe Fentanyl, a dangerous and potentially fatal narcotic 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, in exchange for bribes in the form of speaker fees," Berman said. "Payments from pharmaceutical companies should not influence how doctors prescribe --- especially when a potent and dangerous drug like Fentanyl is involved. This scheme to use their patients as an instrument for profit has resulted in the indictment of five physicians.”
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said: “A substance as powerful as Fentanyl should be prescribed based only on doctors’ own independent medical judgment. In this case, as alleged, a series of doctors were convinced to push aside their ethical obligations and prescribe a drug for profit to patients who turned to them for help. Doctors and medical professionals everywhere should be reminded of the faith and trust placed upon them, and that the health and safety of their patients is not for sale.”
The 57-year-old Freedman was a doctor certified in pain management and anesthesiology who owned a private pain management office on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. He was also an Associate Clinical Professor at a large hospital in Manhattan, received approximately $308,600 in Speaker Program fees from a pharma company in exchange for prescribing large volumes of the Fentanyl Spray.
According to the unsealed indictment:
In March 2013, a regional sales manager for a pharma company sent an email to Freedman informing him that he would receive more Speaker Programs in the coming months because the company wanted prescriptions of the Fentanyl Spray to increase, and urging Freedman to put more patients on the Fentanyl Spray. Freedman responded, in part, “Got it,” and significantly increased his Fentanyl Spray prescriptions in the following months, during which he received approximately $33,600 in Speaker Program fees.
In 2014, Freedman's prescriptions of the Fentanyl Spray rose even further, and he was the fourth-highest prescriber of the Fentanyl Spray nationally in the final quarter of 2014, accounting for approximately $1,132,287 in overall net sales of the Fentanyl Spray in that quarter. During 2014, Freedman was the highest-paid Pharma Company-1 Speaker in the nation, receiving approximately $143,000.
The 48-year-old Goldstein was a doctor of osteopathic medicine who owned a private medical office on the Upper East Side. He received approximately $196,000 in Speaker Program fees from the pharma company in exchange for prescribing large volumes of the Fentanyl Spray. After Goldstein began prescribing a competitor painkiller, the pharma company pressured him to stop doing so and switch patients to the Fentanyl Spray, which Goldstein did.
In 2014, Goldstein was approximately the fifth-highest-paid pharma company peaker nationally. He was the sixth-highest prescriber of the Fentanyl Spray in the last quarter of 2014, accounting for approximately $809,275 in overall net sales of the Fentanyl Spray in that quarter.
The case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Noah Solowiejczyk and David Abramowicz are in charge of the prosecution; paralegal specialist Jake Sidransky provided additional support.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.