Whistleblower News & Articles
October 20, 2020
Today, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office announced that it has filed a Complaint in Intervention against CleanSlate Centers and its founder in a False Claims Act case filed by our client alleging fraud against Medicare and Medicaid. CleanSlate Centers operates a national chain of clinics in Massachusetts and nine other states. These clinics provide medication-assisted treatment for substance abuse, including opioid and alcohol addiction.
As described in our Amended Complaint, CleanSlate Centers exploited the national opioid epidemic in a scheme to build and operate a chain of for-profit addiction-treatment centers. Their own employees described them as a “pill mill” where physicians are expected to “rubber stamp” stacks of prescriptions. CleanSlate fraud and indifference to governing rules and regulations resulted in the government paying tens of millions of dollars for unnecessary, unreasonable, and often harmful medical procedures and laboratory tests.
Our Amended Complaint alleges that Defendants’ primary focus is the distribution of buprenorphine-based drugs to as many opioid addicted patients as possible. However, in doing so, CleanSlate and Dr. Wilson studiously avoided the cost of medically necessary oversight, counseling, and individualized treatment.
As part of this scheme, Defendants mandate expensive urine drug tests at every patient visit. Defendants funnel these referrals to their own clinical laboratory. But, often, the results of these tests were not used to inform treatment decisions for patients. Moreover, in many instances, CleanSlate medical staff never reviewed the test results.
CleanSlate practices constitute healthcare fraud and exposed countless patients to serious medical harm. Our client, a former Divisional Medical Director, identified numerous troubling lapses of care. These include instances in which tests revealed use of drugs of abuse, indicative of significant relapse. However, these tests did not result in any change in care, or even acknowledgment by the responsible practitioners. In one particularly tragic case, Defendants’ policies led to the abandonment of a patient who lost their insurance and relapsed. Ultimately, this patient overdosed and died.
CleanSlate’s then Chief Medical Officer described evidence of these lapses as “an unacceptable deviation from the standard of care”. She also predicted that, “We will and should crash as a company if this is the care we are providing.”
“Our client is grateful that the Commonwealth has joined this action to recover essential Medicaid funds and to hold CleanSlate, Dr. Wilson, and investor Apple Tree accountable for their actions,” said David W.S. Lieberman, who along with Suzanne E. Durrell and Bruce C. Judge, represents the Relator. “We appreciate the efforts of the Attorney General’s Office. We look forward to litigating the case together to benefit taxpayers and – most critically – individuals who struggle with addiction.”
This company’s business model was to illegally profit by cheating our state Medicaid program, which provides vital health care resources to some of our most vulnerable residents. We will take legal action against this kind of misconduct in order to recover funds for our state and protect the integrity of MassHealth.
-Attorney General Maura Healey
Defendants’ wasteful laboratory testing regime was a major revenue and profit driver for CleanSlate. They also were part of an aggressive national expansion effort launched at the end of 2016. Dr. Wilson owned both CleanSlate and the Massachusetts lab and developed the policies directing the self-referrals.
Our Amended Complaint alleges that this aggressive growth strategy got its start when the life sciences venture capital firm Apple Tree Partners (ATP) approached CleanSlate and became its major investor and financial backer. Together, ATP and CleanSlate identified “the national opioid addiction epidemic” as an “opportunity” to expand services nationwide. Under ATP’s guidance, CleanSlate sought to reach $500M in revenue, with a 25% profit margin, in just three years.
The Whistleblower Law Collaborative LLC, based in Boston, devotes its practice entirely to representing clients in bringing actions under the federal and state False Claims Acts and other whistleblower programs. Under the False Claims Act, a private citizen (known as a “relator”) who suspects or knows of fraud against the government can act as a whistleblower and file a sealed complaint on behalf of the government. If the case is successful, the relator is entitled to a share of the government’s recovery. Among the firm’s many successes is the government’s $465 million settlement with Mylan for failing to pay the correct Medicaid rebates on its high–priced drug EpiPen.
For more information, contact the Whistleblower Law Collaborative LLC at 617.366.2800