PITTSBURGH- A resident of Westmoreland County, PA, pleaded guilty to three counts of Conspiracy to Violate the Anti-Kickback Statute, Health Care Fraud, and Conspiracy to Distribute Phentermine Hydrochloride and Diethylpropion, Acting U.S. Attorney Stephen R. Kaufman announced today.
Thomas Whitten, age 71, of Greensburg, PA, pleaded guilty before United States District Judge William S. Stickman.
In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that, from May 2013 to November 2015, Whitten conspired to receive kickbacks from Insys Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company based in Arizona in exchange for prescribing Subsys, a powerful opioid narcotic containing fentanyl. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Subsys solely for the “management of breakthrough pain in cancer patients who are already receiving and who are tolerant to around the clock therapy for their underlying persistent cancer pain.” Whitten admitted to prescribing Subsys to patients for whom Subsys was not medically necessary and thus not eligible for insurance reimbursement. Further, Whitten admitted that from November 2017 through December 12, 2019, Whitten conspired with a co-conspirator to unlawfully distribute Schedule IV controlled substances, phentermine hydrochloride and diethylpropion, to patients at five weight loss clinics.
Judge Stickman scheduled sentencing for December 7, 2021. The law provides for a maximum total sentence of 10 years in prison, a fine not to exceed $250,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offense and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.
Assistant United States Attorneys Cindy K. Chung and Karen Gal-Or are prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.
The matter was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General, and the Pennsylvania State Attorney General’s Office.