SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A prominent La Jolla oncologist and his corporate medical practice admitted importing unapproved foreign cancer drugs at a deep discount, dispensing them to unwitting patients, billing Medicare as if the drugs were legitimate and pocketing the profits, federal officials announced Wednesday.
Dr. Joel I. Bernstein entered a guilty plea to a misdemeanor count of introducing an unapproved drug into interstate commerce, a cancer drug called "Mabthera" - intended for market in Turkey - and administering it to patients.
The approved U.S. drug with the same active ingredient is Rituxan, which is used to treat lymphomas and leukemias such as Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
Bernstein, 59, entered his plea on Jan. 15 was released pending sentencing, scheduled for April 16.
On Wednesday, the doctor's medical practice, Dr. Joel Bernstein M.D. Inc., pleaded guilty to health care fraud.
According to the plea agreement with the corporation, Bernstein's employees purchased $3.4 million of foreign cancer drugs, knowing they had not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in the United States.
From 2007 to 2011, Bernstein's office purchased the foreign drugs for significantly less than market value in the U.S. and then submitted claims to Medicare at the full reimbursement price, according to court papers.
The plea agreement for the corporation calls for $1.7 million in restitution to Medicare, plus forfeiture of $1.2 million in profits.
Authorities said the cases against Bernstein and his practice are the latest example of an alarming nationwide trend that potentially puts patients at risk by exposing them to foreign drugs - particularly injectable chemotherapy drugs - that are not vetted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Deputies confronted by a belligerent man with a machete and a rock in his hands in Valley Center Wednesday opened fire on him with a pistol, sicced a service dog on him and shot him with a stun gun and a beanbag-firing shotgun before managing to get him into custody.
A dangerous trend of getting high on flower seeds is growing among teens. What parents need to be aware of to prevent a tragedy.
A swarm of bees attacked a man in a rural East County neighborhood Wednesday, sending him to a hospital.
An expedition led in part by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego located a missing World War II bomber off the coast of Papua New Guinea and surveyed another at the bottom of a harbor, it was announced Tuesday.
People make the mistake all the time, but in at least one part of California, it's no longer wrong to say "funner."
Local students were showing off their hard work Wednesday at San Diego Unified's College, Career and Technical Education showcase.
A 16-year-old girl managed to escape Tuesday when a would-be kidnapper grabbed her and tried to pull her into his vehicle in a parking lot at Southwestern College, authorities reported.
Plenty of winter rain means plenty of flowers, trees and grasses this spring.
But it also means, plenty of foxtails.
They are a prickly little plant that blooms every spring and can cause plenty of problems for canine companions.
News 8's Shawn Styles explains how to "out fox" the foxtails.
A very special birthday party was held Tuesday as the San Diego Police celebrated 128 years of service.