An ophthalmologist with a medical practice in Englewood admitted today to lying to federal agents during a health care fraud investigation into the reuse of single-use vials of prescription Lucentis for multiple patients, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Bernard J. Fowler, 68, of Mahwah, pleaded guilty to an information charging him with making false statements to federal agents with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General. He entered his plea before U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton in Newark federal court.
Fowler was a licensed and board-certified ophthalmologist, operating his own medical practice called Retina Vitreous Consultants, when he was interviewed by HHS-OIG special agents on July 27, 2011, according to federal records.
Fowler, who no longer operates the practice, admitted during his guilty plea that in 2008 and 2009 he had administered injections from one vial of Lucentis to more than one patient on multiple occasions, but told the investigating agents that he had not. Fowler admitted he knew the statement was false and he intended to deceive the agents, according to a release from Fishman on Tuesday.
According to Fishman’s office there are potential health risks in reusing single-use vials on multiple individuals, as well as potential fraudulent billings to patients and insurers based on the approximately $2,000 cost of a full vial.
The false statements charge carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gain or loss caused by the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for March 24, 2014.
Fishman credited special agents of HHS-OIG, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Thomas O’Donnell, and the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford, for the investigation leading to the guilty plea.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Scott B. McBride and R. David Walk of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Health Care and Government Fraud Unit.