The trial of a Meridian doctor and another local individual charged with participating in a health care scheme is expected to start on Monday in Jackson.
The Department of Justice charged Gregory Auzenne, M.D., and Tiffany Clark for participating in a scheme to defraud TRICARE — a health insurance program for armed services personnel, veterans and their families — and other private insurance companies, according to a Department of Justice press release.
The DOJ alleges that Auzenne prescribed compounded medications that were medically unnecessary in exchange for kickbacks. Auzenne and Clark are allegedly responsible for the submission of more than $1.6 million in fraudulent claims to TRICARE, according to the DOJ.
Compounded medications are drugs made up of ingredients that have been combined or altered, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Pharmacies received higher reimbursements from health care benefit programs, like TRICARE, or from pharmacy benefit managers, like CVS Caremark, when more ingredients were included in compounded medications, according to the indictment.
The indictment states that Auzenne, who had medical licenses in Mississippi, Alabama and Texas, practiced medicine through a Meridian hospital. Clark provided secretarial services to Auzenne, according to the indictment.
The indictment alleges that in 2014, Auzenne signed blank, preprinted prescriptions for compounded medications for TRICARE beneficiaries, Blue Cross Blue Shield members and others, irrespective of whether they medically needed the prescriptions.
According to the indictment, Clark allegedly transmitted the prescriptions to a pharmacist.
The pharmacist delivered the prescriptions to pharmacies, which then dispensed compounded medications to patients, according to the indictment.
The indictment alleges that Auzenne solicited kickback payments, namely $127,000, from the pharmacist, in exchange for agreeing to sign the pre-printed prescription forms. The pharmacist also paid Clark more than $14,000, according to the indictment.
TRICARE and Blue Cross Blue Shield paid about $1,766,401 to compounding pharmacies because of fraudulent prescriptions that Auzenne signed, the indictment says.
The Department of Justice brought the charges in September 2019. At the same time, the department also charged others involved in various health care schemes.
“Fraud against our nation’s vital federal health care programs amounts to theft from American taxpayers,” Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski said in the September 2019 press release. “The Department of Justice, together with our law enforcement partners, will continue to investigate and prosecute aggressively those who bill these programs for medically unnecessary services, whether in the Gulf Coast or elsewhere in the United States.”
Trial attorneys Jared Hasten and Sara Porter and Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Helen Wall will prosecute the case against Auzenne and Clark, according to the Department of Justice press release. The trial begins at 9 a.m. on Monday at the Thad Cochran Federal Courthouse in Jackson. It will start with jury selection, which is expected to take most of the day, according to courtroom deputy clerk Debra Jackson.