Florida Cancer Specialists founder and one-time president will stand trial for market allocation scheme.
William Harwin, MD, founder and one-time president of Florida Cancer Specialists (FCS) centered in Fort Myers, will undergo a criminal trial in June of this year, according to federal documents. The cancer doctor is charged with one count of conspiracy to restrain trade in connection with his alleged role in a 17-year anticompetitive “market allocation scheme” in the southwest portion of the state. The scheme limited patient choice of services by purposely dividing up medical and radiation oncology treatment between just two practices, involving FCS and “Oncology Company A” (21st Century Oncology).
In 2020, Florida Cancer Specialists was charged with the felony of criminal antitrust conspiracy after undergoing a probe by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and agreed to pay $100 million. The DOJ indicated that Florida Cancer Specialists’ revenues totaled nearly $1 billion for treatments delivered illegally from 1999 until 2016.
“Under the agreement, in three southwest Florida counties (Collier, Lee, and Charlotte), Florida Cancer Specialists only offered medical oncology care and 21st Century Oncology only offered radiation oncology. In other parts of Florida, they offered both services,” the federal agency reported. “The conspiracy allowed the two oncology providers to operate with minimal competition.”
“Today’s resolution, with one of the largest independent oncology groups in the United States, is a significant step toward ensuring that cancer patients in Southwest Florida are afforded the benefits of competition for life-saving treatments,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, at the time of the agreement with FCS. “For almost two decades, FCS and its co-conspirators agreed to cheat by limiting treatment options available to cancer patients in order to line their pockets. The Antitrust Division is continuing its investigation to ensure that all responsible participants are held accountable to the maximum extent possible.”
In the indictment against him, Harwin is described “as allegedly enforcing the conspiracy via conversations and communications.” For his part, however, the cancer doctor has maintained his innocence, pleading not guilty. He surrendered his passport to avoid any possibility of fleeing and has posted a $250,000 bond. Responding to the allegations against him, the cancer doctor said, “Let me be absolutely clear about this – I am innocent of the charges that have been brought against me.”
“It is unconscionable for a doctor to prioritize profits over patient care,” said Michael F. McPherson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Tampa Field Office. “The FBI will persist in exposing unscrupulous medical providers who deny the public access to a competitive healthcare marketplace.”
The investigation revealed that Harwin threatened 21st Century Oncology more than once when the practice attempted to expand its services. Agents discovered incriminating communications, including when 21 Century began administering the immunotherapy Provenge to patients with prostate cancer. Harwin told the company’s CEO, “We expect you will end this.” Also, when 21st Century acquired another oncology group, Harwin the CEO to “Make then [sic] disappear.”
“The FBI has no tolerance for medical providers who stand to profit by criminally exploiting cancer patients,” said Michael McPherson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Tampa Field Office. “We will not turn a blind eye while executives pad their pockets to the detriment of vulnerable Americans. We will use every tool at our disposal to ensure that the public has access to a competitive marketplace for healthcare.”