In April 2018, 65-year old former Massachusetts gynecologist Rita Luthra was found guilty of a criminal violation of the HIPAA Privacy Rule and obstruction of a federal investigation into a kickback scheme. During Luthra’s sentencing on September 19, 2018, the Judge spared Luthra from jail time and a fine.
Luthra was accused of receiving a payment of $23,500 to prescribe Warner Chilcott’s osteoporosis drugs. But according to Luthra, she was simply paid for ‘speaker fees’ and for writing a research paper. The speaking events took place in the gynecologist’s office and the research paper was started by never finished.
Luthra denied the accusations that she provided a pharmaceutical sales agent access to patient health data to finish pre-authorization forms for insurance firms that were not approving the prescriptions for two osteoporosis medications that Warner Chilcott was promoting. She also allegedly directed her assistant to support her story. At her trial, the jury found that Luthra had violated the HIPAA Privacy Rule by providing a pharmaceutical sales rep with access to her patients’ protected health information and that she lied to federal agents during their investigation.
Luthra lost her license to practice as a gynecologist when she was arrested and also faced up to six years in prison plus one year of supervised release and a fine of up to $50,000 for the HIPAA violation and up to $250,000 for obstruction of the investigation. U.S. District Judge Mark G. Mastroianni chose to be lenient and sentenced Luthra to only one year of probation. The prosecutors were hoping that Luthra will get a two and a half year jail term and would be ordered to pay a $40,000 financial penalty.
According to Luthra’s lawyer, Atty. Stephen Spelman, Dr. Rita Luthra has spent many years treating women and girls from the deprived communities in Western Massachusetts even if they could not pay for medical services. It was because of Dr. Luthra’s dedication to help disadvantaged women and girls that Judge Mastroianni rejected the prosecutors’ recommendation of jail time and fine. Judge Mastroianni stated in his ruling that Luthra’s loss of license and incapability to practice her profession is a considerable deterrent to others.