Contraindications: Dr. Vinod Chandrashekm Patwardhan
Anyone who has helped a friend or family member undergo cancer treatment knows the fear and frustration that can consume a patient's life. There are new, experimental treatments being touted every year, many of them only available outside of the United States.
So when Dr. Vinod Chandrashekm Patwardhan (California License No. 29318) offered drugs made in India, Honduras, Panama and the Philippines to his cancer patients in the Southern Calif. communities of Chino and Upland, one might assume he was trying his damndest to give them the treatments they desperately needed.
Except they did not know these drugs were anything but FDA-approved drugs purchased in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Their insurance companies thought the same thing.
On May 8, Patwardhan, 66, was convicted by a jury in federal court in Riverside of conspiracy, two counts of introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce with intent to defraud or mislead, and three counts of smuggling. He faces up to 71 years in prison.
The justice department said the doctor and his employees started smuggling drugs as early as 2004. By the time of his arrest in August 2008, he had brought in more than $1.3 million worth of unapproved drugs.
Money, of course.
"As part of his scheme, Patwardhan charged the patients, their insurance companies and Medicare for the unapproved drugs at the same rate that he would charge for FDA-approved drugs, even though he had paid significantly less for the unapproved foreign drugs," the justice department wrote.
It all would have continued to work nicely, too, if his employees had decided to stick to the script. Instead, one of them dropped a dime on Parwardhan. Soon, the FDA was on the case, the Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
It's not clear whether the feds let the Medical Board of California in on their party. Patwardhan had a few run-ins with the board in the 1980s and completed probation on an incompetence case in 1990. But, as of now, he is still licensed to practice medicine in California.
Cancer patients can be forgiven for trying everything within their means to beat the disease. But they deserve to know what they are being given and why.