California Physician, Former Assistant Indicted for Improperly Treating, Charging HIV/AIDS Patients
A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted an Orange County, Calif., physician and his former assistant on charges of deliberately underdosing HIV/AIDS-related medications or administering saline solution to HIV-positive patients instead of the proper drugs and billing insurance companies for the full cost of the treatments, the Los Angeles Times reports (Rosenzweig, Los Angeles Times, 7/21). Dr. George Kooshian and his assistant Virgil Opinion face 25 counts of health care fraud, three counts of making false statements and one count of conspiracy, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeannie Joseph said. According to the indictment, Kooshian ordered Opinion and others to administer half or quarter doses of drugs used to treat AIDS-related conditions or give saline or water injections instead (AP/SanLuisObispo.com, 7/20). "We can't say with any certainty that what he did caused anyone's death, but it certainly affected his patients' quality of life," Joseph said. An investigation was launched after Opinion quit working for Kooshian in 2001 and then made public statements about the allegations in a 2001 interview in the OC Weekly (Los Angeles Times, 7/21). Opinion and former patient Bryan Noble each filed lawsuits in 2001 alleging that Kooshian charged up to $7,000 per treatment when he administered only saline solution (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/10/01). Both of the suits were resolved for undisclosed settlements, according to Joseph (Los Angeles Times, 7/21).
The OC Weekly in its current issue examines the history of the case, including coverage of its investigation into the allegations Opinion originally made in an 2001 interview with the publication (OC Weekly, July 22-28).