Updated at 5:49 p.m. on Wednesday, August 8, 2018 with more information.
A retired Chattanooga oncologist has repaid the government for cancer treatment drugs that were improperly bought by his wife from foreign sources not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Federal prosecutors said Wednesday that Dr. Donald Chamberlain and his wife, Karen, paid $428,700 to the government to repay Medicare, TennCare and other government insurance programs after Karen Chamberlain plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of buying and "misbranding" prescription drugs, including the anti-cancer drug Taxotere.
The drugs were made in the United Kingdom and sold through a Canadian company without FDA approval. But Karen Chamberlain said in her 25 years as office manger of Chattanooga Gyn-Oncology PC she "did not know she was doing anything wrong when she was buying from the foreign source."
U.S. Attorney Doug Overby said the couple and their practice provided foreign-made drugs from 2009 to 2012 because the foreign substitutes for less expensive than the FDA-approved drugs, thereby leading to overcharges for Medicare, Tenncare and the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program.
"Administering oncology drugs manufactured in other countries and not approved by the FDA, risks the safety of our citizens," Overbey said in a statement Wednesday. "We will continue to pursue aggressively, medical providers who improperly put their own financial interests ahead of the safety of their patients and who ignore rules instituted to protect the taxpayer funded healthcare system."
Under terms of her guilty plea, the government put Karen Chamberlain, 62, on probation and required the Chamberlains to repay the government for supplying the cheaper, foreign drugs to patients. Dr. Chamberlain has retired and no longer operates Chattanooga Gyn-Oncology, according to Karen Chamberlain.
Federal prosecutors said their investigation found the drugs being bought by Chattanooga Gyn-Oncology were bought through Quality Special Products (QSP) in Winnipeg, Canada, which bought drugs originating in the United Kingdom.
Sharry Dedman-Beard, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Knoxville, said the claims settled by the agreement announced Wednesday are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.
This investigation was a coordinated effort by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Knoxville, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, U.S. Food and Drug Administration Office of Criminal Investigations, U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the FBI, and the Tennessee Attorney General's Office.
Contact Dave Flessner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 757-6340