A former Carbon County physician was sentenced yesterday to nearly two years in federal prison for his role in a prescription drug marketing scheme in a case which also involved a local pharmacist.

Dr. Andrew Dancha, 46, who formerly had offices in Jim Thorpe and Palmerton, was sentenced in U.S. District Court, Scranton, to 21 months for his role, which defrauded pharmaceutical firms out of more than a half-million dollars.

The doctor, who currently has a practice in Altoona, must turn himself in to federal officials by Feb. 14.

He could have received a maximum prison sentence of 10 years and a fine of $250,000.

Dr. Dancha, who is certified in nephrology (kidney care and dialysis) and internal medicine, pleaded guilty last April 28 to a charge of prescription drug marketing fraud.

The physician was involved in a scheme with Jim Thorpe pharmacist John Roman, providing "free trial" prescriptions to patients and then billing pharmaceutical concerns for reimbursements for fictitious patients, electronically over the Internet. Dr. Dancha was accused of prescribing the medications for these fictitious patients.

Roman caused the pharmaceutical drug manufacturers to remit checks to him totaling in excess of $546,543.

Roman, who owned the former Community Pharmacy in Jim Thorpe, entered into a plea agreement in district court on Dec. 15. The pharmacist was also sentenced to 21 months in prison for mail fraud. In addition, he had to forfeit the property on which the pharmacy was located at 30 River St. in Jim Thorpe, a 2008 Chevrolet Corvette, and about $175,000 that was being maintained in an escrow account.

According to court records, the prescription drug marketing scheme occurred from April 26, 2006 to Feb. 25, 2009.

The scheme involved prescription drug coupon/voucher programs offered by drug manufacturers as a way to increase product exposure by giving patients a single "free" two- to three-week supply of a needed prescription. Patients obtain this "free trail" by printing a coupon from the drug manufacturer's website or by asking their doctor for a voucher, which previously was delivered to the medical office by sales representatives of the respective pharmaceutical firm.

The pharmacist then submits – electronically, over the Internet – a reimbursement claim to a third-party administer of the drug coupon program.

Roman downloaded coupon vouchers and deceived pharmaceutical drug manufacturers by submitting claims for reimbursement for fictitious customers/patients, electronically over the Internet, who were purportedly prescribed medications by Dr. Dancha.

The drug companies, which sustained losses, were Novartis Corp. ($233,799), Glaxo, Smith and Kline Corporation ($169,484), and Merck Pharmaceutical Company ($125,681), according to court records. Roman is ordered to make restitution to these firms. He was not fined, court records state, because he "does not have the ability to pay a fine." He also will not have to pay interest on the owed amounts.