Health

Prescription pain cream scam stole $12 million, according to University of California

File: A student walks near Royce Hall on the campus of UCLA on April 23, 2012.
File: A student walks near Royce Hall on the campus of UCLA on April 23, 2012.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The University of California says it will notify hundreds of students who gave their private health insurance information to an alleged multimillion-dollar prescription medication scam, according to a statement issued Thursday. The university said it also plans to file a motion for a temporary restraining order against the alleged scammers on Friday in Los Angeles County Superior Court to shut down the scheme.

“Our first priority is to our students,” Executive Vice President for UC Health Dr. John Stobo said in the statement. “This needs to be immediately stopped.”

It allegedly started with fake Facebook ads offering students as much as $550 in cash to participate in clinical trials for prescription-grade pain creams, according to the statement. The ads invited students who receive their health benefits through UC’s Student Health Insurance Plan to earn money by participating in a study operated by a company called California Clinical Trials, LLC — or CCT.

The scammers allegedly took students' information and stole almost $12 million from UC by writing phony medical prescriptions in the students’ names, according to the university.

Representatives from CCT exhibited at job fairs on campus as late as last week, the statement said. At the fairs, representatives would ask students to disclose their health insurance and medical information with the prospects of being given marketing jobs.

The university said it had also identified nine health care providers who prescribed medications to students — without any indication of physical exams or a physician-patient relationship. Most of the prescriptions were filled at pharmacies in Studio City and Chino, even though students involved were enrolled at UCLA, UC Riverside, UC San Diego, UC Santa Cruz and UC Davis, according to the statement.

“We are also concerned that the defendants appear to have convinced more than 500 students to part with sensitive personal information, which was then abused,” UC Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Robin Holmes-Sullivan said in the university's statement. “For this reason, in addition to pursuing the temporary restraining order, we are arranging identity protection services for all affected individuals.”

The prescription medications involved in this scheme include Dermacin, Inflammacin, Diclofex, Mebolic, Migranow, Inflammation Reduction Pak, Xelitral, and possibly others, the statement said.

UC said it was warning students to beware of anyone offering free samples or easy cash in exchange for personal information.