Reilly seeks information on €1m drug fraud allegations

Senator claims to have documents relating to VHI money ‘fraudulently taken’

Prof John Crown told the Seanad that documents which had recently come into his possession referred to money “fraudulently taken” from the VHI.

Prof John Crown told the Seanad that documents which had recently come into his possession referred to money “fraudulently taken” from the VHI.

Fri, Dec 20, 2013, 01:00

Minister for Health James Reilly has asked the hospital consultant who made serious fraud allegations in the Seanad yesterday to provide any relevant information to senior departmental officials so the issue can be examined.

The alleged €1 million billing scandal at St Vincent’s Private Hospital in Dublin was highlighted by Independent Senator John Crown.

He told the Seanad that documents which had recently come into his possession referred to money “fraudulently taken” from the VHI.

The State-owned health insurer confirmed yesterday that in 2002 the hospital had repaid it €1 million “which had been raised incorrectly” in charges for high-cost cancer drugs which had been provided free to the hospital.

The drugs had been provided by pharmaceutical firm without cost for a clinical trial in relation to breast cancer patients which had been under way in both St Vincent’s University Hospital and in the nearby private hospital.

It is understood that St Vincent’s Private Hospital had charged the VHI for the cost of the drugs concerned.

The chief executive of St Vincent’s Healthcare Group Nicky Jermyn last night said that money had been repaid to the VHI by the hospital and that there had been “a genuine error” involved.

The Department of Health said that Mr Reilly had requested Prof Crown provide any pertinent material to the secretary general of his department Ambrose McLoughlin.

“Dr McLoughlin and senior officials will examine the matter and consider any further steps that should be taken.”

The clinical trial formed part of a worldwide examination of the drug herceptin and another drug taxotere.

Prof Crown told the Seanad that he had notified the relevant authority, the Irish Medicines Board, about the issue at the time.

“ An investigation began, inexplicably stopped and was reformatted several days later. Documents have recently come into my possession which I am quite happy to discuss and share with the Minister for Health, because they refer to money that was fraudulently taken from the Voluntary Health Insurance, of which the Minister is the sole shareholder, and from other private health insurers. The documents would show conclusively that there was a cover-up conducted by the management and board of St Vincent’s hospital in respect of this.

“Substantial intimidation was brought to bear at the time that the whistle was blown on this 10 years ago but I believe in light of these new documents coming my way, and the increased scrutiny by the Committee of Public Accounts, that it is now time for this matter to be further investigated.”

St Vincent’s Healthcare Group said that its chairman Noel Whelan had written to Prof Crown “in relation to the very serious allegations that he made in the Seanad earlier today”.

“He has asked Senator Crown to forward to him, as a matter of extreme urgency, all information that he has in relation to this matter so that it can be fully considered by the board of St Vincent’s Healthcare Group.

“It appears that the matter raised by Senator Crown relates to issues at St Vincent’s Private Hospital that predate the establishment of St Vincent’s Healthcare Group.”

St Vincent’s Healthcare Group said an independent investigation by PWC at the time had stated: “Our work on the clinical studies has not indicated any evidence of collusion or fraud by staff or within the hospital.”

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