Medical Scam Results in 15 Indictments and Possibly a Baby’s Death

Medical workers in Southern California were indicted in a medical scam that bribed doctors to prescribe medications for workers' compensation claims. The scam may have resulted in the death of a 5-month-old baby.

Pharmacists, physicians, chiropractors and the head of a management firm that deals in workers compensation claims have been indicted—15 people in all, on 44 counts. They've been accused with running a conspiracy from 2009 through 2013 that involved paying out more than $25 million in kickbacks for prescribing a medical concoction.

The baby's parents are also suing for the death of their child, who died from accidentally ingesting the cream. Priscilla Lujan, the baby's mother, saw her doctor over knee and back pain in February of 2012. She was prescribed the cream, but she was not given instructions about how to use it or warnings about its safety. Her name wasn't even on the prescription, but she trusted her physician.

After applying the cream, she held her baby and he sucked on her fingers. The next morning the child was unresponsive, and an autopsy revealed a lethal amount of the cream had been ingested. The cream contained Amitriptyline, an anti-depressant and Dextromethorphan, a cough suppressant. It also contained Tramadol, a pain reliever.

One defense attorney, Richard Moss, argues that the drugs were compounded and distributed legally. While noting the baby's death is tragic, he says blaming the doctor and pharmacist would be like blaming Walgreen's if someone died from a rat poison purchased there. Someone could argue that rat poison is clearly labeled and Walgreen's doesn't get paid for pushing it, but that’s for a jury to decide.

Photo: Southern California Public Radio

Five month-old Andrew Gallegos who died after ingesting the cream.