Pathology Blawg News Roundup for December 19, 2014


Mayo Clinic settles lawsuit against Dr. Franklin Cockerill

From a Mayo spokesperson yesterday:

Mayo Clinic and Mayo Medical Laboratories have reached a settlement with Dr. Franklin Cockerill in the lawsuit Mayo commenced against Dr. Cockerill in October 2014. In exchange for Mayo dismissing its lawsuit, Dr. Cockerill has agreed to the following terms: (1) for a period of two years, Dr. Cockerill will not work or consult for Mayo’s largest competitors, which are specifically designated in the settlement agreement, (2) Dr. Cockerill will return all confidential information taken from Mayo, and provide assurances that he will not use or disclose any such information in the future, and (3) financial payment toward a portion of the expenses Mayo incurred in the litigation.

Mayo Clinic did not take this action lightly. However, we firmly believe that legal action was necessary to protect our confidential and trade secret information against improper disclosure. We understand that our staff members move to other organizations, and, when they do so in a transparent manner, we can cooperatively manage any conflicts-of-interest during their transition and we can protect our confidential and trade secret information.

For those who do not know, Dr. Cockerill was the chairman of the Mayo Clinic Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology and chief of Mayo Medical Laboratories until September 30, 2014, when he left to become the Chief Laboratory Officer of Quest Diagnostics.

Mayo filed a lawsuit against Dr. Cockerill about two weeks after he began his new position that alleged he, among other things, misappropriated Mayo’s trade secrets.

Pediatrician gets 37 months in prison for accepting laboratory kickbacks

Dr. Demetrios Gabriel, a 46 year old pediatrician in the New York City area, has been sentenced to 37 months in prison and fined $75,000 for accepting approximately $4500 per month in kickbacks from New Jersey-based Biodiagnostic Laboratory Services (BLS) in exchange for specimen referrals.

Dr. Gabriel pleaded guilty to the charge against him in February 2014.  At that time, he also agreed to forfeit all $200,000 he received in kickback payments from BLS.

All told, 33 people involved in the scheme, 22 of whom are physicians, have pled guilty to the charges against them related to the BLS scheme.

Bostwick Laboratories sells Tennessee property to Andre Agassi for $1.5 million

Bostwick Laboratories has sold a 2.3 acre property just outside Nashville which contains a 41,000 square foot building to tennis star Andre Agassi for $1.5 million.

Since his retirement in 2006, Mr. Agassi has worked to fund charter schools, and the property will be used to house his second school.

Aurora Diagnostics hires Mr. Rei Lopez as new VP of Hospital Operations

Mr. Lopez has been in the health care industry for 31 years, having most recently served as Corporate Director of Laboratory Operations for Universal Health Services of Delaware, Inc.

Here is the press release Aurora Diagnostics sent me about Mr. Lopez.  Best of luck to him in his new position.

Judge denies reduced bond request for alleged Sonnier murder mastermind

Judge Jim Bob Darnell has denied the request of Amarillo plastic surgeon Dr. Thomas Michael Dixon to have his $10 million bond reduced.

Prosecutors alleged Dr. Dixon paid David Neal Shepard $9,000 in silver bars to murder Dr. Joseph Sonnier, chief pathologist at Covenant Medical Center in Lubbock Texas.  Dr. Sonnier was found shot and stabbed at his home in July 2012.

Last month, after a three week trial and only seven hours of deliberation, the jury determined it was hopelessly deadlocked and the judge declared a mistrial.  I have not seen whether the prosecutor will attempt to re-try Dr. Dixon, who has been in prison ever since his arrest in July 2012.

MS Supreme Court orders new trial in another case in which Dr. Steven Hayne testified

The Mississippi Supreme Court has ruled a trial judge made a serious error when he denied LeeVester Brown’s request for money to hire a forensic pathology expert to review an autopsy conducted by former Mississippi medical examiner Dr. Steven Hayne.

Mr. Brown was convicted of capital murder in the 2003 death of his son, Le’Anthony, who Mr. Brown claimed choked on milk and cereal.

Dr. Hayne conducted the autopsy on the child, and despite the fact both the emergency room physician who attended to Le’Anthony and Dr. Hayne himself noted no cuts, scratches, bruises, or any other type of traumatic injury were present on Le’Anthony’s body, Dr. Hayne determined the child had been shaken to death and ruled the death a homicide.

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New Yorker: Theranos founder’s description of chemistry process “comically vague”

Theranos logo

The New Yorker just published a nearly 6,000 word article about Theranos, a Silicon Valley startup clinical laboratory that is currently valued at $9 billion and has been touted as the company that has the potential to bring Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp to their knees. I have been reading about Theranos here and there for a while now, but have never written about it because I was never able to figure out how it does what it does.  After reading the New Yorker article, I have a better … [Continue reading]

Health Diagnostic Laboratory asks court to dismiss $84 million fraud suit filed by Cigna

Health Diagnostic Laboratory (HDL) has filed a motion to dismiss the $84 million fee-forgiving fraud suit filed by Cigna, arguing the insurer's use of the amended Employment Retirement Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) is fatally flawed. Allegations Very briefly, Cigna, in its suit filed in October 2014, claims HDL: …lures patients from health plans that are administered or insured by Cigna by misrepresenting those patients’ responsibilities under the plans, by promising not to collect any … [Continue reading]

Appellate court strikes down mandatory urine drug testing for Florida welfare recipients

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down a Florida law that required all welfare recipients to undergo urine drug testing, stating the law represents an unreasonable search and is unconstitutional. Urine drug testing in Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) has pushed urine drug tests for two populations in Florida: state employees (and applicants) and welfare recipients.  I first wrote about Gov. Scott's actions in March 2012, approximately two months after I started the blawg. At … [Continue reading]

Affiliated Genetics speaks out about Lovelace and DuBois laboratory kickback allegations

Affiliated Genetics logo

Mr. Michael Gennett, a partner at Akerman and the attorney representing Affiliated Genetics, was kind enough to provide me with a comment about the allegations contained in the criminal complaint against David Brock Lovelace and Dale DuBois I discussed last week.  In addition, Mr. Gennett drew my attention to an error I made that I have since corrected. Readers will recall Mr. Lovelace and Ms. DuBois were arrested and charged in November 2014 with conspiracy to defraud Medicare and … [Continue reading]

Florida pathologists encouraged to fight UnitedHealthCare and BeaconLBS

FSP logo

The College of American Pathologists and the Florida Society of Pathologists have composed a letter of opposition to the Laboratory Benefit Management Pilot Program (LBMP) created by UnitedHealthCare (UHC) and administered by BeaconLBS that is scheduled to begin on January 1, 2015 in Florida.  I recommend all Florida pathologists sign on to the letter to fight against the implementation of this horrible program. For those who do not know, BeaconLBS describes itself as … [Continue reading]

Pathology Blawg News Roundup for December 5, 2014

Dr. Franklin Cockerill resigns from Quest Diagnostics A Mayo Clinic spokesperson emailed me yesterday with the news: Mayo Clinic and Quest Diagnostics have reached an agreement in Mayo's suit against Dr. Franklin Cockerill. Dr. Cockerill has resigned from Quest, and Quest has filed a motion to withdraw from the suit. Mayo is not pursuing any claims against Quest. For those unfamiliar, Dr. Cockerill is the former chairman of the Mayo Clinic Department of Laboratory Medicine and … [Continue reading]

More details available about Florida clinical laboratory kickback arrests

Lovelace BMW

Back in mid November, I wrote a brief article about David Brock Lovelace and Dale DuBois, who were arrested in Florida on November 14, 2014 and charged with conspiracy to defraud Medicare and paying illegal kickbacks for clinical laboratory testing referrals. At the time, all I had was the Department of Justice's press release, but I now have a copy of the criminal complaint, so I thought I would provide more information about the case. The complaint consists solely of an affidavit written … [Continue reading]

Health Diagnostic Laboratory sues Boston Heart Diagnostics for patent infringement


Health Diagnostic Laboratory (HDL), the clinical laboratory currently facing an OIG investigation into possible kickbacks and an $84 million lawsuit by Cigna for health insurance fraud, has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against competitor Boston Heart Diagnostics (BHD). At the heart of the suit is patent #8,119,358 ('358), "Diabetes-Related Biomarkers and Methods of Use Thereof" that is currently assigned to HDL. For those interested, the full 236-page patent with images, tables … [Continue reading]

Pathology Blawg News Roundup for November 26, 2014

Trial of alleged mastermind of Dr. Joseph Sonnier murder ends in mistrial A week ago today Judge Jim Bob Darnell determined the jury which heard the sixteen day trial of plastic surgeon Dr. Thomas Michael Dixon was hopelessly deadlocked and declared a mistrial. Dr. Dixon was accused of paying David Neal Shepard $9,000 in silver bars to murder Dr. Joseph Sonnier, chief pathologist at Covenant Medical Center in Lubbock Texas.  Dr. Sonnier was found shot and stabbed at his home in July … [Continue reading]

Dr. Franklin Cockerill claims he felt intimidated by the Mayo Clinic

Dr. Franklin Cockerill, Chief Laboratory Officer of Quest Diagnostics, responded to the lawsuit filed against him by the Mayo Clinic and claimed he felt intimidated by CEO Dr. John Noseworthy and feared Mayo would retaliate against him and his family. Readers will recall Dr. Cockerill, who was chairman of the Mayo Clinic Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology and chief of Mayo Medical Laboratories (MML) until September 30, 2014, left Mayo to work for Quest. Soon after, … [Continue reading]

Dr. Robert Wadley responds to urine drug toxicology testing article

A week ago today, I wrote a blog post that discussed a Wall Street Journal article about urine drug toxicology testing. A large part of the WSJ article (and my post) focused on Dr. Robert Wadley, a pain physician in North Carolina who performs in-office urine drug toxicology testing and also owns a urine drug toxicology laboratory called AvuTox. Dr. Wadley reached out with some comments about my post and the WSJ article earlier this morning, and in the interest of allowing both sides to … [Continue reading]

Important update regarding CMS’ 2015 ancillary services packaging policy

Earlier this month I wrote an article that included a summary of the ancillary services packaging policy the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) implemented in its 2015 Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment/Ambulatory Surgical Center Payment Systems Final Rule. That summary stated CMS had: ...finalized its proposal to package the technical component of select ancillary services, including many anatomic pathology services, into a single unified payment for services provided … [Continue reading]

Florida laboratory kickback scheme results in two arrests

David Brock Lovelace, Vice President of Cornerstone Health Specialists, and Dale DuBois, managing member of Healthcare Marketing Florida LLC, were arrested last week and charged with conspiracy to defraud Medicare and paying illegal kickbacks for clinical laboratory testing referrals. Unfortunately, I do not know much more than what is available in this short Department of Justice press release, as the case is so new the complaint is not yet publicly available.  I will try to find out … [Continue reading]

Yup. All those urine drug tests are totally necessary, doctor.

Robert Wadley, MD
(Brier Creek Pain and Spine YouTube ad)

The Wall Street Journal recently published a great article that once again perfectly demonstrates why physician self-referral and urine drug toxicology testing are a dangerous combination. Doctors play Medicare "Whac-a-Mole" The article begins by discussing how physicians are testing the urine of senior citizens for drugs they rarely use, like cocaine, heroin, PCP (angel dust), etc, at "soaring rates", and how many pain doctors make more money from urine drug testing than they do treating … [Continue reading]