The former owner of a Creve Coeur pharmacy on Monday admitted paying illegal kickbacks to marketing companies to generate prescriptions for expensive medications.
Michael J. McCormac, 55, pleaded guilty in front of U.S. District Judge Rodney W. Sippel to two counts of violations of the Anti-Kickback Statute.
At the time of the crimes, McCormac owned GoLiveWell Pharmacy, which operated primarily as a mail-order pharmacy supplying customers across the country. McCormac admitted striking deals with marketing companies in which GoLiveWell would illegally kick back a percentage of the pharmacy’s net profit on prescriptions obtained through the marketing companies’ efforts.
In exchange, the pharmacy received prescriptions obtained by the marketing companies in various ways, including by running ads in hopes that patients would “opt in” to receiving prescriptions for expensive drugs. The companies also engaged in the so-called “doctor chase,” in which they fax prescriptions to doctors’ offices in hopes that the doctors sign them.
Those prescriptions included topical creams, oral medications and antibiotic and antifungal “foot bath” drugs. Claims for payment for the drugs were submitted to federal health plans including Medicare and the Missouri Medicaid and Ohio Medicaid programs.
GoLiveWell paid one company 60 percent of the pharmacy’s net profit and another 45 percent. One month, GoLiveWell paid one marketing company $260,836.
In total, the government alleges that Medicare paid GoLiveWell $4.7 million to which it was not entitled, with another $490,000 coming from Missouri Medicaid and $330,000 from Ohio Medicaid.
McCormac is scheduled to be sentenced August 16. Each charge carries a potential penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. He will also be ordered to pay restitution.
The case was investigated by the Office of Inspector General for the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the Medicaid Fraud Control Units of Missouri and Ohio, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Meredith Reiter and Derek Wiseman are prosecuting the case.