A federal district judge has ordered Charles Adams M.D. and his medical practice to pay more than $27 million for violating the False Claims Act (FCA). In June 2023, a federal jury in Rome found that the defendants violated the FCA by submitting false claims to Medicare for chelation therapy reimbursements. Chelation therapy involves the use of drugs to remove heavy metals from the body. The jury found that Medicare reimbursed the defendants more than $1.1 million for these unnecessary treatments. In a post-trial ruling, the federal district judge added penalties to the jury’s verdict, bringing the total amount owed to more than $27 million.
“The Court’s judgment emphasizes the serious consequences that face healthcare providers who submit false claims to Medicare,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan. “On behalf of those healthcare providers who faithfully bill for medical procedures, and for their patients who rely on the safety net of Medicare, our office will continue to work vigorously with our federal agencies and law enforcement partners to pursue providers who engage in misconduct.”
“Physicians who fraudulently submit unreasonable, medically unnecessary claims put their personal profits over their obligations to both federal health programs and their patients,” said Tamala E. Miles, Special Agent in Charge for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG). “With our law enforcement partners, HHS-OIG is committed to investigating potentially fraudulent billing that can compromise the integrity of our federal health care programs and the well-being of beneficiaries.”
“Providers who undermine the integrity of the health care system will be held accountable for their actions,” said Sean Burke, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “Actions like this impact every tax paying citizen, in particular, those who rely on federally funded programs for their health care needs.”
According to U.S. Attorney Buchanan, the civil complaint, the court’s final order, and other information presented in court: Adams operated a medical practice in Ringgold, Georgia, known as Full Circle Medical Center. As a part of his internal medicine specialty, Adams administered the drug edetate calcium disodium (“EDTA”) to address a wide range of conditions, including atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, headaches, GI ailments, fatigue, and other generalized symptoms. But these symptoms are not recognized as being treatable using EDTA. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, EDTA is recognized as a treatment only for lead poisoning and lead encephalopathy. Because Dr. Adams’ patients did not have lead poisoning or lead encephalopathy, Medicare would not reimburse his use of EDTA. To receive reimbursement for the EDTA, Dr. Adams falsely claimed to Medicare that his patients suffered from heavy metal poisoning.
In August 2018, the Government filed a civil complaint alleging that between November 2008 and September 2015, Adams and Full Circle knowingly submitted false claims to Medicare for medically unnecessary and “alternative” chelation therapy that Adams administered using EDTA. The complaint also alleged that in connection with this scheme, Adams and Full Circle unlawfully received approximately $1.1 million in Medicare reimbursements.
The case proceeded to a jury trial in Rome, Georgia, in June 2023, before presiding U.S. District Judge William M. Ray, II. The jury found Adams and Full Circle liable for submitting more than 4,400 false claims to Medicare. The jury awarded more than $1.1 million in damages. Under the FCA, Judge Ray was required to treble the jury’s award and to add penalties based on the number of false claims submitted. Judge Ray issued his final decision on August 25, 2023, ordering the defendants to pay a total of $27,567,729 in damages and penalties.
The FCA is the primary authority used by the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office to redress fraud, waste, and abuse within federal programs, including Medicare.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The case is being litigated by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anthony DeCinque and Akash Desai. Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Paris Wynn also worked the case before his departure.