FORT MYERS, Fla. – A Fort Myers urologist who ordered unnecessary medical tests will pay more than $1 million in a settlement with the government, federal prosecutors announced Friday.
Dr. David Spellberg, formerly of Naples Urology Associates, was part of a group of local doctors who ordered extra bladder cancer tests while working for 21st Century Oncology. In December, the company agreed to pay $19.75 million to settle allegations against them.
Spellberg will pay $1,050,000 to resolve the allegations against him, prosecutors said.
“As a respected Urologist for more than 20 years, Dr. Spellberg diagnosed and treated some of the most complex prostate and bladder ailments, including various cancers, for thousands of patients,” Spellberg’s attorney, Adam Schwartz, said in a statement. “Dr. Spellberg stands behind his practice to use the most current and comprehensive tests to protect his patients’ lives. Dr. Spellberg strongly believes he properly utilized diagnostic tests but has chosen to resolve this matter to avoid the tremendous expense and time of further litigation.”
Spellberg ordered fluorescence in situ hybridization tests, commonly known as FISH tests, for the majority of his patients – especially those on Medicare, according to court documents.
FISH tests are performed on urine to detect genetic abnormalities associated with bladder cancer, but court documents allege they are rarely effective.
Spellberg is one of four Southwest Florida doctors who participated in the excessive testing, federal officials said. Dr. Meir Daller of Gulfstream Urology, Dr. Steven Paletsky of Florida Specialists in Urology and Dr. Robert Scappa of Scappa Urology were also named by federal officials.
“We intend to hold those accountable who intentionally use fraudulent practices to make a profit at others’ expense,” said A. Lee Bentley, III, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, in a statement. “False claims such as these impact the solvency of our public healthcare programs and erode the confidence of those being serviced by that care.”
Spellberg ordered the original tests to be shredded, according to a 2013 whistleblower suit filed by local employment attorney Benjamin Yormak. His client received $3.6 million as a result of turning in her employer, 21st Century Oncology.
The alleged actions happened after 21st Century bought Naples Urology, the suit said. Naples Urology was rewarded with new office equipment in 2011, according to the documents.