Doctor pleads guilty to providing protected health information to drug maker
A pediatric cardiologist from Georgia has pled guilty to wrongfully disclosing the protected health information of hundreds of his patients to an Aegerion Pharmaceuticals Inc. sales representative and executive looking to identify potential new users for the company’s expensive cholesterol drug.
Dr. Eduardo Montana pled guilty to violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) for his role in divulging his patients’ names, dates of birth, diagnoses and other private information to assist Aegerion in finding potential buyers for Juxtapid, a cholesterol drug that costs up to $250,000 annually and was only approved to treat a rare disease. None of Dr. Montana’s patients were diagnosed with the rare disease, but he prescribed the drug off-label to two patients identified by Aegerion. Additionally, Dr. Montana provided the Aegerion sales representative with the password to his electronic medical records system, so the sales representative could remotely access patient information.
Dr. Montana faces up to one year in prison and is the second person to face charges into the probe regarding the marketing of Juxtapid. In September, Aegerion plead guilty to two misdemeanors involving the marketing and sale of the drug and agreed to pay a $36 million settlement to resolve claims made by the U.S. Department of Justice.
While this is an egregious example of non-compliance, all health care providers should be careful when disclosing protected health information for promotional purposes and should ensure that the applicable marketing rules are closely followed.