US accuses Fresenius Medical Care unit of dialysis treatment fraud

Band Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK, July 13 (Reuters)The United States has joined a whistleblower lawsuit accusing a unit of German Fresenius Medical Care AG FMEG.DE to defraud Medicare and other health care programs by charging medically unnecessary procedures on dialysis patients.

According to a civil lawsuit filed late Tuesday night, Fresenius Vascular Care violated federal misrepresentation law by routinely performing procedures on patients with end-stage kidney disease at nine facilities in New York City and its suburbs from January 2012 through June. 2018.

The US Department of Justice said Fresenius knowingly performed angioplasties and fistulas, both of which involve insertions or injections into veins and arteries, to increase revenue and help facilities meet performance metrics.

Many patients who underwent the procedures were elderly, low-income or from disadvantaged minorities, the department said.

Fresenius did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

End-stage renal disease occurs when a person’s kidneys stop working normally, requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant.

The Justice Department said Fresenius knew his procedures “put patients at serious risk,” including excessive sedation, infection, ruptured blood vessels, or conditions that may require more invasive or frequent treatment.

In a statement, U.S. Attorney Breon Peace in Brooklyn called Fresenius’ conduct “flagrant.”

The lawsuit was originally filed in June 2014 by two doctors, John Pepe of the Borough of Staten Island in New York and Richard Sherman of Westfield, New Jersey, according to court documents.

Pepe, in a statement, said Fresenius “put patients at risk to support their results.”

The False Claims Act allows whistleblowers to sue on behalf of the federal government and share in recoveries.

The case is US ex rel. Pepe et al v Fresenius Vascular Care Inc, US District Court, Eastern District of New York, No. 14-03505.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Additional reporting by Brendan Pierson; Editing by Richard Chang and Jonathan Oatis)

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