Physician 'Predator' Sentenced for Opioid-Related Patient Death; More

Naomi Shammash

August 10, 2021

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that Eduardo Navarro and Nayade Varona have been sentenced. The case is described in second item of this article.

Doctor’s Illegal Opioid Distribution Results in Patient Death

Thomas K. Ballard III, MD, of Jackson, Tennessee, pleaded guilty to causing the death of one of his patients in 2015 by illegally prescribing hydrocodone. He faces a minimum of 20 years in prison for one count of illegal drug distribution resulting in death. He will be sentenced in September.

Ballard, 63, owned and operated the Ballard Clinic, from which he prescribed dangerous and addictive drugs without legitimate medical purpose. Ballard also engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with several female patients while ignoring signs that they were abusing the medications he prescribed, according to the US Department of Justice (DOJ).

Ballard's treatment records show that he believed a patient had psychiatric problems and was abusing her medication, evidenced by positive drug screens and prescriptions obtained elsewhere for suboxone, a drug used to treat opioid dependency. However, Ballard continued to prescribe hydrocodone to the patient, including on May 28, 2015, when the patient fatally overdosed on the drug.

"Ballard has proven himself to be nothing more than a predator in a white lab coat, and he should expect to be punished accordingly," said Special Agent in Charge J. Todd Scott of the DEA's Louisville Division. "Doctors take an oath to first do no harm, and instead, Ballard chose to put his own licentious interests above his patients' well-being."

Clinical Researchers Falsify Drug Trial Data

Eduardo Navarro, of Miami, and Nayade Varona, of Port St. Lucie, Florida, pleaded guilty to conspiring to falsify clinical trial data. Navarro, 52, was sentenced to 46 months in prison and Varona, 50, received 30 months in prison. The court also ordered the defendants to pay $2,134,503 in restitution..

Navarro and Varona both worked for Tellus Clinical Research, where Navarro was a subinvestigator and nurse practitioner, and Varona was an assistant study coordinator. They admitted to agreeing with one another and others to falsify data in medical records for two clinical trials that were evaluating a treatment for irritable bowel syndrome. Navarro and Varona falsified data to make it appear as though patients were participating in the trials, which never occurred.

Doctor Faces Decade in Prison for $6 Million Healthcare Fraud

Keyvan Amirikhorheh, MD, a family physician in Seal Beach, California, pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit healthcare fraud. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.

While working at Los Angeles Community Clinic, Amirikhorheh submitted fraudulent claims for family planning services, diagnostic testing, and prescriptions for nonexistent patients, defrauding the Family Planning, Access, Care and Treatment (Family PACT) program administered by Medi-Cal, the California Medicaid program.

Between March 2016 and April 2019, Los Angeles Community Clinic and associated laboratories and pharmacies submitted approximately $8,406,204 in claims to Medi-Cal and were paid approximately $6,660,028. Amirikhorheh, 61, is the final defendant of five to plead guilty in the case, according to the DOJ.

Dentist Office Sued for HIV Discrimination

Night and Day Dental Inc, of North Carolina, settled with the DOJ to resolve a claim that it discriminated against a woman with HIV in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

Title III of the ADA prohibits healthcare professionals from discriminating against people with disabilities, including those with HIV. The DOJ found that Night and Day Dental refused to accept a woman as a new patient because of her HIV-positive status. The patient was seeking routine dental care, including a cleaning and check-up. Night and Day Dental additionally requires certain bloodwork results from patients with HIV before deciding whether to provide dental care, when requiring such results is not medically necessary.

They will pay $30,000 to the victim of the discrimination, train their staff on the ADA, develop an antidiscrimination policy, and report to the DOJ every time they refuse to treat a person with HIV or stop providing treatment after learning of a patient's HIV-positive status. "Turning away patients with HIV or requiring them to provide information that is not medically recommended creates unfair barriers to healthcare for people with HIV," said Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general in the DOJ's Civil Rights Division.

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