A STAT investigation has found that employees of Proove Biosciences, a California medical laboratory, paid doctors $30 for every person enrolled in a study of genetic tests meant to help select the best pain medication for each patient. A typical physician could make $144,000 a year in “research fees.” In reality, Proove employees stationed in physicians’ offices pushed unnecessary tests on patients and sometimes completed research evaluation forms on behalf of the doctors, rating the tests as “highly effective” when they weren’t, according to an article posted on the STAT website.
STAT began its examination of Proove late last year after being contacted by current and former employees who had read an article about the dearth of evidence supporting the company’s flagship opioid-risk test.
Separately, the FBI and the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services are investigating possible criminal wrongdoing by Proove. Agents are focusing on possible kickbacks involving payments to doctors.
Proove’s first clinical study subjected to peer review, based on data from 134 patients, was published in late January in the Journal of Psychiatric Research. In it, doctors said that most patients improved after treatment decisions guided by a pain-perception test marketed by Proove.
However, Dr. Eric Fung, a biotech executive who briefly served as the firm’s chief scientific officer in 2015, said Proove’s database of tens of thousands of patient records was mined for any evidence of a testing benefit. He acknowledged that the lack of a comparison group, made up of patients who did not get the test, also weakened the findings. Fung added that he left the company over doubts about the utility of its tests.
“I could not find a good statistical or clinical benefit for these tests,” he said. “I didn’t feel comfortable with the science being done at Proove.”
According to STAT, Proove’s formula is simple: recruit doctors…