One of the most touching moments in medical school graduation ceremonies
is when the newly minted doctors take an oath to make patient well-being
their top priority. While most remain committed to this goal throughout
their practice, a few do not.
A Repeat Offender - A Podiatrist Convicted of Selling Prescriptions in
2008 Faces Similar Charges in 2014
We could fill a book with stories of medical professionals selling prescriptions
or prescription medication, but one recent case from California stands
out. As detailed by the San Jose Mercury News, a podiatrist is facing
charges he sold prescriptions. This case is particularly egregious because
the doctor had previously been convicted of selling illegal narcotic prescriptions
back in 2008. At that time, he received a 65-day jail sentence, was placed
on probation for 5 years, and had his medical license placed on a 7-year
The doctor is currently facing two counts of similar charges. According
to the local District Attorney, the podiatrist signed more than 5,000
prescriptions over the last year, primarily for highly addictive narcotic
pain medications, muscle relaxers, and anxiety medications. In June, an
FBI agent posed as a patient and went to the doctor's office. Despite
not examining the agent and not asking medical questions, the doctor wrote
the agent a prescription for narcotics (100 pills of Norco, also sold
under the name Vicodin) and a muscle relaxant (Soma).
The agent was charged $65 and told (again, without asking questions of
the patient or performing an exam) he had plantar fasciitis, a heel problem.
The agent returned within a month's time and brought a "friend"
(an undercover deputy). Dr. Nguyen said he couldn't give the agent
a refill so soon, but wrote the new patient prescriptions for the same
medicines. Once again, there was no physical exam. The doctor told both
"patients" to limp on their way out of the office.
Prescribers, Prescriptions, Pills - A Potentially Dangerous Trio
In prior decades, the problem of drug abuse was primarily about street
drugs like heroin and cocaine. Today, the problem has transformed and
drug abuse increasingly involves prescription medications. The epidemic
takes many forms. News reports may mention teens stealing pills from a
parent's medicine cabinet, patients becoming hooked on pills after
an injury, and people selling pills on the street. Doctors should play
a key part in the fight against prescription abuse and many do (see this
New Yorker article from November 2013 for one doctor's reflections
on how the pain pill epidemic impacts medical practice). However, as the
case above demonstrates, some doctors are part of the problem rather than
part of the solution.
From Penalties to Protecting Patients
There are a number of avenues for dealing with doctors who misuse their
prescription powers and fuel the prescription drugs misuse/overuse problem.
Doctors may face criminal penalties or may see their right to practice
limited or withdrawn entirely. Civil claims are another important tool.
As in other arenas, civil claims can compensate the victims of doctors
who fuel prescription misuse. Civil claims, especially when publicized,
also warn would-be-perpetrators that the offense will be taken seriously
and make overprescribing much less profitable.
As we noted in our prior discussion of these issues, personal responsibility
is incredibly important and a belief in accountability fuels all areas
of our firm's practice. However, people should be able to count on
their doctors to provide good medical services and counseling. When doctors
fuel a dangerous drug epidemic, they violate our trust and endanger the
patient and his/her love ones (such as a child left without care because
a parent becomes hooked on an irresponsibly prescribed medicine).
If a doctor or other medical professional irresponsibly prescribed pills
or otherwise contributed to pill misuse and you or a loved one was harmed,
you may have a claim. Call us today to learn more.
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