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Pond Lehocky sends clients to preferred doctors and asks them to send those new patients to the law firm’s pharmacy, Workers First.
The pharmacy then charges employers or their insurance companies for the workers’ pain medicine, sometimes at sky-high prices, records show.
“I’m very passionate about the human suffering.” Legal and medical ethicists say breaking down the walls among lawyers, doctors, and pharmacists can lead to conflicts of interest and create a financial incentive to prescribe the costliest drugs — whether or not they are medically appropriate — or to prolong workers’ comp legal disputes to boost revenues.
“Talk about an unholy alliance,” said Joseph Paduda, president of Comp Pharma, a trade association for workers’ comp pharmacy-benefit managers.
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But, in fact, several doctors are part-owners, the Inquirer and Daily News have learned.These sorts of doctor- and lawyer-owned pharmacies are largely unknown outside of the local workers’ comp industry and are not fully understood even within legal and medical communities, because the lawyers and physicians behind them have kept a low profile or sought to conceal their ownership. Steven Joffe, chief of the division of medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania’s medical school.“I can’t speak to what’s going on in any individual case, but the whole setup seems ripe for corruption.” In Pennsylvania’s workers’ comp system, medical bills for injured workers are typically covered by employers or employers’ workers’ comp insurance providers.An email to doctors, signed by one of the law firm’s founding partners, Sam Pond, outlined the arrangement: “For all patients that you may see with a workers’ compensation claim, referred to you from our office or elsewhere, we ask that you have our pharmacy, Workers First Pharmacy Services, fill the scripts.” Some of the doctors sending patients to Workers First also own a piece of the pharmacy, enabling them to make money from both patient care and the prescriptions.Pond Lehocky received state approval to open its pharmacy in October 2016.