by Alex Lloyd Gross
Becoming a doctor is very hard work. You have to study, work hard, study even more , put in very long hours, pass very hard tests and then you get to study some more. If you are fortunate, you will graduate college and be called “Doctor”. Most people, that get that title, strive to achieve high status in the medical community, and work to gain the respect of their colleagues. Then there is Andrew Berkowitz.
He graduated medical school and then opened up a practice. At some point, Andrew Berkowitz opened up a clinic in Philadelphia called A+ Pain Management. It was there, that people would see Berkowitz and get a “goodie bag of drugs. He would then bill their insurance company for a high amount, and also he prescribed drugs for people that did not need them. The “goodie bags” typically included a combination of drugs including topical analgesics such as Relyyt and/or Lidocaine; muscle relaxers such as Chloroxazon and/or Cyclobenzaprine; anti-inflammatories such as Celecoxib and/or Nalfon; and Schedule IV controlled substances such as Tramadol for pain; and/or Eszopiclone and Quazepam for insomnia and anxiety. The defendant obtained payments from insurers of more than $4,000 for each bag by falsely asserting that the drugs were for the benefit of the patient when, in reality, Berkowitz was the real beneficiary.
As part of the fraud scheme, Berkowitz also prescribed oxycodone to “pill-seeking” patients in exchange for their tacit approval that he would submit excessive claims to the patient’s insurer for the “goodie bag” and other medically unnecessary services. From 2015 through 2018, Berkowitz obtained more than an estimated $4 million in fraudulent proceeds from his scheme.
Berkowitz, from Huntingdon Valley is 62 years old. He will spend the next 20 years in federal lock up, which could be a life sentence, given his advanced age .He must also pay a $30,00 fine and almost $4 million in restitution, authorities said. He pleaded guilty to multiple counts of insurance fraud and prescribing drugs for no legitimate reason. in January 2020. He will no longer be a doctor.
“Doctors who dare engage in healthcare fraud and drug diversion, two drivers of the opioid epidemic ravaging our communities, should heed this sentence as a warning that they will be held responsible, criminally and financially,” said U.S. Attorney Williams. “Our office will continue to root out healthcare fraud and drug diversion in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in all its forms.”
Multiple federal agencies were responsible for busting up this pill mill operation including the FBI, and the Department Of Labor.