NEW YORK – A federal judge in California has dismissed charges against the CEO of embattled genetic testing company Proove Biosciences who along with other individuals had been accused of paying physicians at least $3.5 million in kickbacks.
In June 2021, the US filed an indictment against Proove Founder and CEO Brian Javaade Meshkin accusing the executive of conspiracy to defraud the US and violating the Anti-Kickback Statute. The lawsuit accused Proove of paying physicians $100 to $150 in kickbacks for ordering tests from the company, and falsely characterizing payments as clinical research fees.
Proove, which according to its website is now defunct, sold several pharmacogenetic tests that claim to assess a patient's risk of misusing opioids and were marketed to physicians specializing in pain management. Some researchers had expressed skepticism about the company's claims, noting a lack of published, peer-reviewed evidence.
The 2021 indictment from the US government included nine defendants in total, all of whom have had charges against them dropped.
Federal prosecutors in December dropped charges against six individuals — Meshkin; three physicians and a chief medical officer of National Spine and Pain Center, a Rockville, Maryland-based company that had ordered Proove's tests; and a sales representative who had promoted the products — characterizing the dismissal as being "in the interests of justice." Charges against three other Proove executives — Steven Samuel Fichtelberg, Kirt Thomas Pfaff, and Bruce Walter Gardner — were dropped in July after the executives reached nonprosecution agreements with the US.
The National Spine and Pain Center in August paid $5.1 million in restitution to Medicare as part of a criminal settlement for receiving kickbacks. As part of a nonprosecution agreement that resolved criminal liability, the National Spine and Pain Center admitted that physicians at its affiliate Physical Medicine Associates had received unlawful compensation from Proove, according to the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California. Physical Medicine Associates received $1.1 million from Proove.
Proove and the National Spine and Pain Center did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Proove has previously defended its practice of paying providers.
In a statement published Monday, Proove said, "These false allegations levied against Meshkin and Proove caused tremendous harm, as they have been widely disseminated publicly and in the media. With this dismissal, the defendants are vindicated, and this flawed investigation has been thoroughly discredited."