A Palm Harbor oncologist was sentenced to almost six years in federal prison after being convicted of fraudulent charges to Medicare for unapproved overseas cancer medications.
Dr. Diana Anda Norbergs will remain free while her case is appealed. According to federal prosecutors, Norbergs ordered cancer drugs from the United Kingdom and Canada that were cheaper than the FDA-approved American brands, then charged Medicare for the amount she would have paid for those drugs had she purchased the approved American versions.
Though the drugs she purchased did not bear the FDA stamp of approval, federal prosecutors put on no evidence suggesting that the patients to whom she administered the foreign drugs were harmed as a result. However, and despite her defense team pointing it out on several occasions throughout the trial, U.S. District Judge James Moody said the crime was the violation of trust her patients placed in her while under her care.
The 61-year-old doctor maintained that she believed the drugs she ordered were FDA approved, saying so while taking the stand in her own defense. Prosecutors argued otherwise, alleging a visit in 2011 by an FDA agent instructing her to cease purchasing the foreign drugs, as they were not, in fact, approved by the FDA.
Her defense team also argued that she faced certain mental impairments that may have made her less culpable for her crimes. According to a defense expert, Norbergs was less intelligent than most doctors, as her 108 IQ was below that of most doctors. Though an average IQ is between 90 and 109, the defense expert indicated that most doctors possessed IQ’s of between 110 and 129.
The defense expert also testified that Norbergs had a mild neurocognitive disorder that may have arisen due to a medically-induced coma in which she was placed in 2006.
Norbergs was convicted earlier this year of receipt and delivery of misbranded drugs, smuggling goods into the United States, health care fraud, and mail fraud. In addition to a seventy-month prison term, Norbergs was also ordered to reimburse Medicare $848,671 in restitution.