Cleveland neurosurgeon pleads guilty to pharmaceutical kickback scheme

Spine

Neurosurgeon Bhupinder Sawhny, MD, on Oct. 11 pleaded guilty to accepting kickbacks from Avanir Pharmaceuticals in exchange for writing prescriptions for Nuedexta to people who did not need them, cleveland.com reported Oct. 11.

Nuedexta is used to Pseudobulbar affect, a neurological condition that causes involuntary fits of laughing or crying.

As part of Dr. Sawhny's plea agreement, prosecutors dropped 29 other charges against the surgeon. The plea came less than two weeks before he was set to stand trial along with neurologist Deepak Raheja, MD, and two representatives of Avanir, according to the report. All three pleaded not guilty to charges that include conspiracy to solicit, receive, offer and pay kickbacks.

Over a four-year period, Dr. Sawhny allegedly received kickbacks from Avanir for writing Nuedexta prescriptions and promoting the use of the drug to other physicians, prosecutors said. 

Dr. Sawhny is the second person to plead guilty in connection with the scheme; Franklin Price, MD, an internal medicine specialist, pleaded guilty in 2020 to a misdemeanor charge of providing patient information to Avanir without authorization, according to the report.

Dr. Sawhny has agreed to pay $51,379 in restitution, plus interest. He faces up to two years in prison at his Feb. 2 sentencing. 

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