By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The federal prosecutors office and the federal police in Brazil issued eleven arrest and seizure orders on Monday morning, July 18th, in the cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro after conducting an investigation of the overpricing of equipment used to help patients with Parkinson’s disease.
According to the Center for Combating Corruption and Administrative Misconduct (NCC) of the Prosecutors’ Office between 2009 and 2015 at least 154 implant surgeries to treat Parkinson’s disease were authorized to be conducted in the public health system (SUS) without an auction bid process. The equipment, normally sold for R$27,000 each cost the public health system R$114,000 each.
“With the diverted amount, over 400 Pacemaker kits and electrodes could have been acquired. Without the corruption, many more people could have been operated on,” said federal prosecutor Thaméa Danelon, responsible for Monday’s sting operation.
According to investigators, a surgeon belonging to one of the hospitals under investigation, in collusion with the facility’s administrator, directed patients to file actions in court to obtain permission for the surgery to perform the implant.
The sting operation, dubbed Dopamine, refers to the neurotransmitter, whose deficiency is related to Parkinson’s disease. According to Danelon the loss to public coffers due to the overpricing of the equipment totaled R$13.5 million.
Prosecutors say the doctor and the administrator, as well as other suspects in the operation may be charged with the crimes of conspiracy, embezzlement, corruption and embezzlement against the Union, with punishments that can total up to twelve years in prison.