Physician convicted in $100M fraud scheme involving unnecessary spinal injections

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A Michigan pain physician faces a maximum penalty of life in prison after a jury convicted him for his role in a kickback scheme that defrauded Medicare and other federal insurance programs of more than $100 million.

Francisco Patino, MD, prescribed an excessive amount of opioids to patients at his Livonia, Mich., clinic, the Justice Department said in a Sept. 22 news release. In exchange for opioids, patients were provided or billed as if they had received spinal treatments that included facet and nerve block injections.

Evidence at trial showed that many of these injections were performed without medical necessity and if patients refused the injections, Dr. Patino would withhold their prescriptions for opioids.

From January 2012 through July 2017, Dr. Patino billed CMS for more of these injections than any provider in the country, prosecutors said. In 2016 and 2017, he prescribed more 30-milligram Oxycodone pills than every other provider in the state of Michigan.

Dr. Patino also received illegal kickbacks from a diagnostic lab in exchange for sending patients' samples to the lab, according to the Justice Department. 

Prosecutors said Dr. Patino used hundreds of thousands of dollars he received from medically unnecessary Medicare claims to sponsor Ultimate Fighting Championship athletes and promote the Patino Diet.

Dr. Patino is set to be sentenced on Jan. 20, 2022.  

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