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California doctor
charged with HIV-related fraud

California doctor
charged with HIV-related fraud

G. Steven Kooshian, an HIV specialist serving patients in California's Orange and Los Angeles counties, was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury for deliberately giving HIV and hepatitis patients small, ineffective doses of medications and then billing their insurance companies for the full doses, the Los Angeles Times reports. Kooshian was charged with administering quarter or half doses--and in some cases giving water or saline solution instead of any medication--to his patients, but defrauding insurance companies and Medicare of up to $1.2 million in reimbursements for full treatments. Among the HIV-related drugs Kooshian may have given to his patients in less than therapeutic amounts include Epogen for anemia, interferon for Kaposi's sarcoma, and immunogammaglobulin for peripheral neuropathy. Kooshian faces 25 counts of health care fraud, three counts of making false statements, and one count of conspiracy.

"We can't say with any certainty that what he did caused anyone's death, but it certainly affected his patients' quality of life," assistant U.S. attorney Jeannie Joseph said.

Kooshian's assistant, Virgil Opinion, also was charged in the case. According to the indictment, Kooshian ordered Opinion and other office workers to administer the reduced dosages of the drugs and then bill insurance companies for full treatments. An investigation by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was launched after Opinion quit working for Kooshian in 2001 and made public statements about Kooshian's behavior to an Orange County newspaper. Opinion and former patient Bryan Noble each filed lawsuits against Kooshian in 2001; both cases were settled out of court for undisclosed settlements.

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