— With 2 licenses remaining, Kathleen Ann Cullen writes scripts through America’s Frontline Doctors
A viral video about a hospitalized patient taking ivermectin for COVID-19 revealed the name of a doctor who provided the drug via an America’s Frontline Doctors telemedicine scheme.
Kathleen Ann Cullen, MD, of Seminole, Florida, prescribed the drug to right-wing journalist Ben Bergquam, NPR reported. But a deeper look revealed that Cullen’s Alabama and Kansas medical licenses had been revoked, and those actions are on the radar of Florida’s licensing regulators.https://afd0f14c7fef317aad18a67172441ae3.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
Cullen is also licensed in North Carolina, but a spokesperson for that board couldn’t confirm to NPR whether an investigation was underway.
Alabama revoked Cullen’s license last November, following an investigation into her telemedicine prescribing practices and a lack of oversight of nurse practitioners (NPs) working under her supervision.
In January 2021, Cullen appeared at a hearing of the Alabama State Board of Medical Examiners and had been asked to produce charts for five patients for whom she ordered tests via telemedicine, and for five patients seen by a NP practicing telemedicine under a collaborative agreement with Cullen.
According to board documents, Cullen appeared virtually before the board and was “uncooperative, evasive, slow to respond to the Board’s legitimate requests, delayed the proceedings without cause, and failed to show for [an earlier] November 2020 hearing despite having adequate notice.”
The documents also showed that she failed to produce those medical records and was “evasive in her testimony regarding her ordering of medical tests, and her collaboration with mid-level providers.” They additionally showed evidence of Cullen’s relationship with a Utah-based telemedicine company called Bronson Medical, whose owner, Andrew McCubbins, had previously pleaded guilty to federal healthcare fraud charges.
A company McCubbins owned paid kickbacks and bribes to various parties in exchange for orders for medically unnecessary genetic cancer screening tests (called CGx Tests) for Medicare beneficiaries, reaping some $89 million from the federal payor, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The company paid kickbacks and bribes to people who operated call centers targeting Medicare beneficiaries for the genetic tests, the DOJ said.
Then, doctors — and the NPs and physician assistants (PAs) under their supervision — wrote “medically unnecessary” orders for those tests, often with bribes from McCubbins, “without performing legitimate medical consultations and after only cursory telephonic interactions with the Medicare beneficiaries,” according to DOJ.
DOJ also noted that the supervising physicians often had “no legitimate clinical or collaborative relationship” with the NPs and PAs they were supposed to supervise.
Indeed, the Alabama medical board documents stated that in the work she did for Bronson Medical, Cullen didn’t interact directly with any patients; didn’t perform any physical exams; and didn’t speak with any patients directly. All patient contact, the board stated, was carried out by the NPs under Cullen’s supervision — and that oversight consisted solely of periodic chart reviews, the board said.
The board put Cullen’s license on probation in February 2021 and gave her 6 months to pay a fine of $10,000 and to complete a continuing medical education (CME) course on medical ethics.
Cullen never completed those tasks, so Alabama revoked her license in November 2021.
Kansas had suspended Cullen’s license before that, in May 2021, for failing to pay her annual licensing fees since March 2018, according to board documents.
Her Florida license shows an expiration date of Jan. 31, 2022, but displays as “clear/active” on the Florida medical license lookup website. However, two public administrative complaints appear on that site. One references the Alabama discipline, and the other references the Kansas discipline.
The NPR report noted that Cullen’s American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) certification had lapsed, but ABIM declined to say when that happened.
Cullen graduated from the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University in 1993. It’s not clear how, exactly, she became involved with America’s Frontline Doctors. The group’s leader, Simone Gold, MD, JD, faces federal charges related to her participation in the Jan. 6, 2021 storming of the U.S. Capitol, and a House subcommittee launched an investigation into the group and its affiliated telehealth provider late last year.
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