A federal judge has agreed to a six-month delay in sentencing a Derby nurse who pleaded guilty to accepting kickbacks in exchange for prescribing a powerful opioid painkiller because she is cooperating in “numerous ongoing criminal investigations,” according to court records. U.S. District Judge Michael Shea approved a Jan. 17 agreement between federal prosecutors and attorneys for Heather Alfonso that delays her sentencing another six months, until July 2017. Alfonso was charged in June 2015 with accepting $83,000 in kickbacks from Insys Therapeutics in exchange for her high prescribing of the drug Subsys. In arguing for the new sentencing delay, the U.S. attorney’s office in Connecticut said Alfonso “continues to cooperate in (investigations in) several federal and state jurisdictions, including the District of Connecticut.” A previous story by C-HIT reported on prior sentencing delays because she was cooperating in an ongoing federal probe.
Almost four years after Protein Sciences began selling its innovative flu vaccine, the Meriden company still struggles to gain a foothold in a marketplace dominated by pharmaceutical powerhouses. Orders for Flublok – the only flu vaccine not derived from eggs – remain well below company goals, and officials haven’t been able to get it into some major pharmacy chains such as CVS and Walgreens. “We’re doing better than last year, but we’re still not doing as well as I would like to do,” said CEO Manon Cox. The company aims to sell 900,000 doses of Flublok by the end of the current flu season in late March, she said. So far, it has sold just 250,000, even as widespread flu outbreaks spread across several parts of the country.
The state Board of Examiners for Nursing on Wednesday disciplined three nurses, including one who dealt in anabolic steroids. In the steroid case, the board fined RN Michael Mase of New Milford $3,000 and placed his license on probation for a year. He has said he started using steroids in connection with power lifting and that he bought them for his own use and to share with friends, records show. In 2015, he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute and intent to sell steroids, records show, and is now on criminal probation through 2018. Under the consent order he signed with the nursing board, Mase must undergo random drug tests but he can stay employed as an independent contractor with Vivacity Life Center in Stamford.
The state Medical Examining Board disciplined four doctors on Tuesday, including fining a Stonington doctor $8,000 for failing to provide adequate follow-up care for a patient who later died of cancer. Dr. David Burchenal of Stonington was also reprimanded and placed on three years of probation under a consent order approved by the board. During the probation, Burchenal must hire a physician to randomly review his patient records and must take a course in assessing urinary tract disorders. In November, the board had rejected a $3,000 fine against Burchenal, with some members saying they wanted a stiffer penalty. Burchenal failed to follow up on test results that showed his patient, George A. Ruffo, had abnormally high red blood cell counts in 2011 and 2012, state records show.
In an unusual move, the FBI is reaching out publicly to patients who were prescribed the powerful narcotic medication Subsys, which federal agents allege was improperly dispensed by practitioners across the country, including a nurse in Derby. In a posting on its Victim Assistance Program website, the FBI asks people who were prescribed Subsys between March 2012 and December 2016 to complete a brief questionnaire that will assist in a federal probe of Insys Therapeutics, the company that makes Subsys. The appeal follows the indictments in December of six top executives and managers of Insys on charges they led a nationwide conspiracy to bribe doctors and nurses to prescribe Subsys, which is approved for treating cancer patients suffering episodes of breakthrough pain. In exchange for bribes and kickbacks, the practitioners wrote large numbers of prescriptions for patients, most of whom were not diagnosed with cancer, the indictments allege. One of the practitioners named in the indictments is Heather Alfonso, formerly an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) at the Comprehensive Pain and Headache Treatment Center in Derby. She has pleaded guilty to accepting kickbacks from Insys through a sham “speakers’ program,” in exchange for prescribing Subsys.
Thousands of metastatic breast cancer patients nationwide have given researchers access to their tumors and DNA in the hopes it will lead to breakthrough treatments and therapies for one of the most deadly forms of cancer. As the groundbreaking study enters its second year, more than 2,900 women and men have signed on to participate in the Metastatic Breast Cancer Project (MBCproject) since it launched Oct. 20, 2015. Spearheaded by the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, the project aims to find possible new treatments for the disease by examining patient-submitted DNA and medical records. Thirty-eight patients from Connecticut have expressed interest in the project and 21 of them have taken the next step and signed consent forms granting researchers access to their medical files and DNA as of November, according to Corrie Painter, the cancer researcher directing the MBCproject.
The state Department of Public Health has fined five nursing homes for various violations, including two in which residents went missing. Blair Manor in Enfield was fined $3,000 after a resident with dementia and neurocognitive disorder left the facility. Staff noticed the resident was missing around 7:20 p.m. on Oct. 4, 2016. According to the Department of Public Health (DPH) citation, earlier that day five staff members separately witnessed the resident saying he was going to leave the facility and packing his belongings, but none reported it to their supervisors.
When Clinton resident Austin Haughwout uploaded YouTube videos of his pistol and flamethrower-equipped drones last year, he triggered a national debate over the use of weaponized drones that is expected to result in new state legislation. Eight states, including Vermont and Maine, now have laws prohibiting or limiting the weaponization of drones, and Connecticut is expected to take up a similar ban in the next legislative session. A proposal in Connecticut to make it a felony to carry a weapon or an explosive in a drone was approved by the House during the 2016 legislative session, but the Senate failed to take action. “Hopefully, next year, we will get the legislation across the finish line,” said Rep. Stephen Dargan, D-West Haven, co-chair of the legislature’s Public Safety and Security Committee. Nationally, there were 632,068 drones registered as of December, according to Alison Duquette, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The state Board of Examiners for Nursing disciplined six nurses this week, including several cases of nurses who abused drugs or alcohol. On Wednesday, the board revoked the license of Michelle Murphy, a registered nurse from Longmeadow, Massachusetts, for violating an earlier probation by not submitting drug test results to the state Department of Public Health, records show. In April, the board had placed her on probation for two years based on findings that she took the painkillers fentanyl and Dilaudid for her own use and abused controlled substances to excess, records show. The board also revoked the license of licensed practical nurse Adam Burr of New Britain, who was intoxicated while working for PSA Healthcare of Plainville doing care in a patient’s home, state records show. The board found that Burr’s abuse of alcohol and an emotional disorder or mental illness he has suffered from since 2013 were affecting his ability to practice nursing.
In a move intended to underscore the growing importance of independent, in-depth journalism, the Knight Foundation has launched an end-of-year program that will match donations to C-HIT and select other nonprofit news organizations. Dubbed the Knight News Match, the program will match donations from individual donors to C-HIT and 56 other news groups nationwide, up to a total of $1.5 million, through Jan.19. Individual organizations are eligible to receive up to $25,000 in matching funds. “News Match is a call to action for everyone who believes in quality, trustworthy, in-depth journalism and the role nonprofit news organizations play in building strong communities,” the Knight Foundation said in announcing the program. “Successful journalism organizations need a passionate, dedicated community of supporters.