Justice Department Files False Claims Act Complaint Against Medical Device Manufacturer And Its Owner For Training Providers To Improperly Reuse Disposable Items

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

          GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN – The United States has filed a lawsuit against The Prometheus Group (Prometheus), a New Hampshire manufacturer of pelvic muscle therapeutic systems and related rectal probes, and Richard Poore, its president and sole owner. The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, alleges that the defendants violated the False Claims Act by causing health care providers to bill Medicare for services in which the providers improperly re-used single-user rectal sensors and single-use catheters on multiple patients. The United States alleges that the reuse of these devices on multiple patients unnecessarily exposed vulnerable Medicare beneficiaries to the risks of serious bacterial, fungal and viral infections.

          “Providers and suppliers who participate in federal health care programs are expected to maintain the highest standards of patient care,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The department will hold parties accountable for causing the use of unsafe procedures that may put patients’ health at risk.”

          “The Medicare Program is designed to serve an already-vulnerable population,” said Mark Totten, United States Attorney for the Western District of Michigan. “Device manufacturers must not train providers who bill Medicare for services to use devices in a way that fails to protect patient health.”

          “By encouraging the improper reuse of medical devices for financial gain, this manufacturer significantly endangered the health and safety of patients,” said Special Agent in Charge Mario Pinto with the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG). “HHS-OIG is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to hold accountable any medical device manufacturers who exploit Federal health care programs and threaten the health and safety of beneficiaries.”

          Prometheus manufactures and sells device systems for use in pelvic muscle rehabilitation (PMR), a non-surgical therapy to eliminate or reduce symptoms of pelvic floor disorders, including urinary and fecal incontinence. Specifically, Prometheus has manufactured and marketed the Pathway CTS 2000 Pelvic Floor Training System and the Morpheus System. Both systems required the use of a rectal pressure probe that is inserted into a patient’s rectum during therapy. Prometheus manufactured its own sensor for use with the Pathway System and encouraged its customers to use another company’s anorectal manometry catheter with the Morpheus System.

          The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared the Prometheus rectal pressure sensor to be used as a single-user device and the anorectal manometry catheter to be used as a single-use device. For example, the instructions for use identify the rectal pressure sensor as “a potential bio-hazard” and state: “This sensor is restricted for single person use only. Use by another person is strictly prohibited by Federal Regulations.” Similarly, the anorectal manometry catheter was cleared by the FDA as a disposable single-use device, with packaging that states: “Do not re-use.”

          According to the United States’ complaint, the defendants knew of these restrictions, but for years encouraged and instructed health care providers to reuse the rectal pressure sensors and anorectal manometry catheters on multiple patients, using a glove or condom to cover the probes, as a way to reduce the overhead costs associated with Prometheus’s systems. This reuse, which exposed patients to unnecessary risk of infections, was not reasonable or necessary, and thus was ineligible for Medicare coverage. In addition to the safety risks, Prometheus allegedly made no attempt to determine if the probes worked effectively when re-used under those conditions.

          The lawsuit is captioned United States v. The Prometheus Group., et al., No. 1:22-CV-446 (W.D. Mich.) and is being handled by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch (Fraud Section) and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan. Lead counsel are Senior Trial Counsel Jay D. Majors and Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew J. Hull. Investigative support is being provided by the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, the FDA, and the FBI.

The claims asserted in the United States’ complaint are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.