By: Richard L. Smith
A Warren physician admitted using his medical license – and allowing others to use his medical license – to purchase prescription oncology medications under false pretenses to sell them for profit, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced Thursday.
Federal officials said Joel Lerner, 62, a board-certified podiatrist and operator of a medical supply group purchasing organization, pleaded guilty by videoconference before U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton to an information charging him with unlawfully selling prescription cancer medication, which had been previously purchased using his medical license and under the representation that such medication was to be used to treat his patients.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
While working in his medical practice’s offices in various locations in New Jersey, Lerner was recruited by an individual who owned a pharmacy and also owned and operated two businesses that were wholesale distributors of prescription drugs.
At the request of this individual and others working with him, and in return for commissions and discounts on other medical supplies purchased by Lerner for his group purchasing organization, Lerner used his medical license – and allowed others to use it – to buy expensive prescription drugs, primarily, cold-chain biologic infusion medications that typically are used to treat cancers, macular degeneration, and autoimmune diseases.
By recruiting and using Lerner and his medical license to purchase the drugs, these individuals were able to obtain prescription drugs from the pharmaceutical manufacturers’ authorized distributors that they would not otherwise have been permitted to buy.
They were then able to sell them at a profit through their two businesses.
Lerner and the two individuals made numerous false and misleading representations to the pharmaceutical manufacturers in purchasing the drugs.
They authorized distributors, including that Lerner purchased the drugs to use to treat his patients, and that the drugs would not be resold or redistributed.
In actuality, none of the drugs were administered to Lerner’s patients but were ultimately sold to customers of the two businesses for a profit.
In an effort to obscure the fact that he was illegally buying and selling prescription drugs purchased under his medical license, Lerner sold and transferred the prescription drugs in the name of his group purchasing organization.
The scheme ran from December 2014 through November 2018, during which more than $1.2 million in prescription drugs were purchased in Lerner’s name and using his medical license.
The sale of prescription drugs purchased by a healthcare entity is punishable by a maximum of three years in prison and a $10,000 fine. In his plea agreement, Lerner also agreed to make restitution for the full amount of any loss resulting from his offense.
Sentencing is scheduled for July 18, 2023.