As Cancer.net explains, genetic testing helps for people to estimate their chances of developing cancer in their lifetimes. “It does this by searching for specific changes in your genes, chromosomes, or proteins,” explains the website, “These changes are called mutations.”
There are genetic tests for many different types of cancer. They include breast, ovarian, colon, thyroid, prostate, pancreatic, kidney and stomach cancer. Genetic testing is also available for melanoma and sarcoma. It may help predict the risk of a particular disease, discover if a person has genes that may pass increased cancer risk to his/her children and provide information about how to guide health care.
Genetic testing has also been manipulated for financial gain.
As reported by the Middle District of Tennessee branch of the United States Department of Justice this week, 53 year-old Fadel Alshalabi faces fraud charges. The owner and Chief Executive Officer of Spring Hill, Tennessee-based Crestar Labs, LLC, (Crestar) was charged with aiding and abetting and violation of the anti-kickback statute. It was for his role in orchestrating a fraudulent Medicare billing scheme relating to genetic testing in cancer patients.
According to the criminal complaint, Alshalabi began his fraudulent scheme in 2016. As the owner of Crestar, he engaged in a scheme to pay out illegal health care kickbacks. They were in exchange for the solicitation of genetic tests from Medicare beneficiaries. Alshalabi didn’t just use his Spring Hill lab to perpetrate his scheme. He also owned and utilized Karemore Labs in Baltimore, Maryland as well as Martis Labs and CrestarDX in Dallas, Texas.
Alshalabi was arrested by federal agents this past Sunday evening.
The arrest took place in Chicago. Alshalabi was to return to the Middle District of Tennessee to face the charges. It is alleged that he “contracted with marketing companies to target and recruit elderly patients who were federal health care program beneficiaries in order to obtain their genetic material for conducting genetic tests,” reports the DoJ.
As part of the scheme, marketers, who were not health care professionals, obtained swabs from the mouths of patients at nursing homes and senior health fairs, among other places. The tests were then approved by telemedicine doctors who didn’t even engage in the treatment of the patients. In fact, many times they didn’t even speak with the patients for whom they ordered tests.
Most patients and their treating physicians never even received the results of the tests.
“Alshalabi paid illegal kickbacks and bribes in exchange for the doctor’s orders and tests, without regard to any medical necessity,” the DoJ details, “During the period of late 2017 to present, Crestar billed Medicare approximately $86 million for genetic testing and was paid almost $14 million for those claims. If convicted, Alshalabi faces up to 10 years in prison.”
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