A pediatric cardiologist allowed a pharmaceutical company sales representative to window shop for new patients by illegally letting him into the personal medical records of hundreds of children.
Dr. Eduardo Montana pleaded guilty to a federal misdemeanor count of wrongfully disclosing identifiable health information as part of a plea deal at a federal courtroom in Boston on Wednesday, records show.
Montana, who has offices throughout metro Atlanta, is set to be sentenced June 4.
The sales rep with Massachusetts-based Aegerion Pharmaceuticals, which was absorbed by Novelion in 2016, wanted to look at the records to find possible candidates for Montana to prescribe Juxtapid.
Prosecutors explained in court documents that Juxtapid is used to treat an adult ailment that causes “extremely high levels of LDL-C, which is known as the bad cholesterol.
And even though Montana was a pediatric cardiologist and the Food and Drug Administration had not said how safe the drug was for children, Montana still worked with the company to give the meds to kids who weren’t afflicted with that illness.
The person who answered at the practice’s phone number listed online Friday afternoon said she didn’t know anything about the situation and would leave a message for Montana. He didn’t immediately respond to the message.
Montana gave Aegerion a list of 280 possibly applicable patients in 2013. The six-page list had their names and dates of birth, prosecutors said.
On Feb. 26, 2013, the sales rep used a personal email to send Montana back a list of 102 patients he could move forward with. Documents allege that the sales rep ended the email with: “By the way, I am sending this to you from my personal email because of the patient info :)”
The next day, Montana, the sales rep and an Aegerion senior executive met in a conference room at the doctor’s condominium. The executive pushed for Montana to use the drug on two sisters, age 13 and 14. Montana wrote the prescriptions the same day.
The doctor went on to give the sales rep his access code to peruse the HIPPA-protected medical information for all of his patients along with texted instructions on how to use the system, prosecutors said.
“Montana admitted ... his intent behind doing so was at least in part for Aegerion’s commerical advantage and his own personal gain,” according to court documents.
Soon after, Montana applied to Aegerion for a $236,000 grant. He was denied.
In September 2017, Aegerion pleaded guilty to improperly advertising the risks associated with Juxtapid and how it could be used, according to the Department of Justice. The company paid out $35 million in that case.
Also in 2017, Aegerion faced fraud charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission and agreed to pay a $4.1 million penalty because it misled investors four years earlier about Juxtapid.
In January 2018, Montana cut a deal with prosecutors.
Georgia business records show that Montana was the CEO of Children’s Cardiovascular Medicine, which is associated with WellStar Kennestone Hospital.
The practice has offices in Marietta, Suwanee, Lawrenceville and Jasper, according to its website.
The website lists Montana’s credentials, including his appointment at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, his time on the faculty of the Emory University School of Medicine and how he remains an active staff member of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
The website’s “Contact Us” section has a reminder for possible patients: “Please do not submit any Protected Health Information.”
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