A now-suspended psychiatrist pleaded guilty Friday to taking kickbacks and benefits worth nearly $600,000 from pharmaceutical companies for prescribing an anti-psychotic drug to thousands of elderly and mentally ill patients.
In addition to the guilty plea, 71-year-old Michael Reinstein agreed to pay the U.S. and Illinois governments $3.79 million to settle a civil lawsuit connected to the scheme, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office. The suit alleged the doctor submitted at least 140,000 false Medicare and Medicaid claims for prescriptions of the anti-psychotic clozapine.
Prosecutors said Reinstein routinely prescribed clozapine to thousands of elderly and mentally ill patients in more than 30 area nursing homes and other facilities between August 2003 and July 2011.
Clozapine is used to treat schizophrenia, but typically only as a “last resort” because of possible side effects, including inflammation of heart muscle, a potentially deadly decrease in white blood cells, and increased mortality in elderly patients, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
Reinstein took kickbacks from drug companies in the form of speaking and consulting agreements worth up to $50,000 a year, in addition to free meals, tickets to sporting events and an all-expense-paid trip to Miami, prosecutors said. He was also paid to conduct research studies related to the drug.
Teva Pharmaceuticals USA and IVAX Pharmaceuticals paid $27.6 million to settle allegations they violated the state and federal False Claims acts by making payments to Reinstein in exchange for prescriptions, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.
Reinstein’s plea agreement calls for the government to recommend a sentence of 18.5 months in prison when he is sentenced by U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson, prosecutors said. Under the civil settlement, he must pay the federal government $1,837,968 and the state $1,956,741 within 10 days.
Records from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation list Reinstein’s medical license as “suspended” as of August 2014.