DOJ’s Agreement with Physician Settles Qui Tam Whistleblower’s Allegations

Various medical pills in different colors

David Florence, D.O., a physician based in Manchester, Tennessee, agreed to a permanent ban on his ability to prescribe “Schedule II and the vast majority of Schedule III controlled substances,” according to a May 18 press release from the Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee.

As part of the Consent Judgment and Permanent Injunction, “Florence is permanently enjoined from issuing prescriptions for any controlled substances under Schedules II and III of the Controlled Substances Act.” The agreement has limited exemptions “for buprenorphine products as allowed by Tennessee law, testosterone, and two migraine medications.” Additionally, Florence “agreed not to order or store any controlled substances, and not to prescribe to himself, any immediate family members, fellow employees, or significant others.”

The agreement’s terms mandate that “DEA has the right to enter Florence’s registered location at any time during business hours without notice for the purpose of determining compliance.” Florence must also “comply with all laws concerning the supervision of mid-level providers.”

“If Florence fails to comply with the terms of the settlement agreement, he is subject to civil penalties, criminal charges, and/or the revocation of his DEA Registration,” the press release states.

The agreement with Florence resolves allegations that stemmed from a whistleblower’s qui tam lawsuit. The qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act enable private citizens to file lawsuits on behalf of the government if they know of an individual or company defrauding the government. Qui tam whistleblowers are eligible to receive between 15 and 30% of the government’s recovery, if one occurs. The federal government also has the option to join in a qui tam lawsuit. The whistleblower in this case is a former office manager of a pain clinic in Cookeville, TN, where Florence practiced.

According to the press release, the U.S. “filed a civil complaint in intervention” in March 2016. It alleged that Florence and other defendants violated the Controlled Substances Act and the False Claims Act. Specifically, the government alleged that Florence “prescribed controlled substances that had no legitimate medical purpose and failed to properly supervise mid-level practitioners.” The U.S. “previously obtained settlements that resulted in the dismissal of its claims against all other defendants named in its complaint in intervention.”

U.S. Attorney Mark H. Wildasin praised the whistleblower and thanked them for their assistance in this case. “We rely on whistleblowers to help identify unlawful conduct, and we greatly appreciate the assistance that the relator in this case provided throughout the investigation and court proceedings that allowed us to stop Dr. Florence from ever again prescribing the dangerous controlled substances at issue here,” Wildasin said in the press release.

Whistleblowers are key to uncovering fraud, corruption, and misconduct in the healthcare industry. In Fiscal Year 2021, whistleblowers helped the DOJ recover $1.6 billion in settlements.

The DOJ reported that “[o]f the more than $5.6 billion in settlements and judgments” that the agency reported in FY2021, “over $5 billion relates to matters that involved the health care industry.”

Read the press release here.

Read more False Claims Act/qui tam news on WNN.

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