July 21, 2005

L.A. doctor indicted for ‘subdosing’ AIDS patients

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A well-known California AIDS doctor
accused of "subdosing" his patients -- giving them less than
the prescribed amount of medication to boost his profits -- has
been indicted on federal charges.

Dr. George Kooshian, who has twice been sued over subdosing
claims and settled both cases out of court, was indicted on
Wednesday on 25 counts of health-care fraud, three counts of
making false statements and one count of conspiracy.

"It's pretty egregious because you are talking about
people's health here," Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeanie Joseph
said of the accusations against Kooshian, 54, who has been
ordered to appear in court on Aug. 1.

Kooshian's former assistant, 45-year-old Virgil Opinion,
was also named in the indictment but indicated a willingness to
cooperate with prosecutors, she said.

The indictment charges Kooshian with ordering Opinion and
other employees at two clinics he operated in Los Angeles and
Orange Counties to subdose patients he was treating for AIDS,
HIV and hepatitis.

According to the indictment, patients received one-half to
one-quarter of the doses they were prescribed and in some cases
were given only saline or water. Kooshian then billed insurance
companies for the full doses and continued to submit claims
even after patients stopped taking the medication, the
indictment said.

It was Opinion who first alerted authorities to the
suspected subdosing, coming forward after he was fired.

"He claimed his conscience was killing him," Joseph said.
Opinion and one of Kooshian's patients each sued the doctor,
who settled both cases out of court.

Kooshian and Opinion each face a maximum sentence of 10
years in prison for each of the 25 health-care fraud counts and
five years in prison for the conspiracy count and each of the
false statement counts.