Isabella Martire, a 52-year-old oncologist in Laurel, will be sentenced Oct. 17 after pleading guilty to buying prescription drugs not approved for use in the United States, and using them on cancer patients.
According to U.S. Justice Department officials, Martire, who diagnosed and treated various types of cancer in her offices in the 8300 block of Cherry Lane and on Prince Philip Drive, in Olney, accepted a guilty plea agreement July 25.
According to court documents, Martire pleaded guilty to making several payments that totaled $200,000 to a drug company in the United Kingdom for misbranded, unapproved prescription drugs at a savings to herself of more than $790,000.
DOJ officials stated in the documents that on Dec. 9, Martire, "ordered $6,696.04 of misbranded prescription drugs approved for use in the United Kingdom and Europe and on Dec. 14, 2010, Martire ordered $6,711.72 of misbranded prescription drugs and had them (both orders) shipped to her Laurel, Md. office."
According to federal officials, in 2010, they began an investigation of a UK pharmaceutical company, identified only as "Company #1" in court documents, that was suspected of importing unapproved prescription drugs into the United States. They said in December, they used a cooperative witness to call the pharmaceutical wholesaler and obtain an email address for the company. In February, court documents stated that investigators obtained a search warrant for the email address, and it was at that point that they came across information regarding Martire's illegal 2010 prescription purchases.
"On May 26, 2011, federal law enforcement agents executed a search and seizure warrant on Martire's Laurel, Maryland office and seized several boxes of misbranded drugs purchased from Company #1. The labels on some of the boxes and their corresponding packaging inserts were in Turkish," court documents stated. "Company #1 solicited Martire's business by facsimile and offered discounts on oncology drugs beyond what Martire was able to obtain from her previous supplier."
In her plea agreement, Martire admitted to the savings of nearly $800,000 and to having sought reimbursements from Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, private insurers and other federal employee health insurance plans for the drugs she dispensed. According to court documents and the plea agreement Martire signed, the prescription drugs Martire illegally purchased from the UK company were used to treat patients in 2010 and early 2011.
Community service work
According to Martire's office website, she received her training at the Lombardi Cancer Center at Georgetown University and began practicing in 1993. Information on the website also said she chairs the Montgomery General Hospital Cancer Committee and since 2004, has been a reviewer for the American Board of Oncology. Also an accomplished artist, Martire has organized art shows to raise money for Laurel Regional and Montgomery General hospitals, and for several years, donated artwork sold at Laurel Regional's annual wine tasting and art sale fundraiser.
Martire, who faces a maximum of one year in jail, followed by a year of probation, refused to answer a reporter's questions about her guilty plea. When asked if she is continuing to see patients, she said, "We are still taking appointments."
A DOJ spokesperson said it's up to medical licensing board officials to make the determination on whether Martire will keep or lose her license to practice and not the agency.