Prescription pain medication can be a great benefit to patients who are suffering from painful conditions like chronic back pain. However, it is clear from the opioid epidemic that these powerful pain pills were overprescribed and their potential for addiction were underrepresented. A lot of deference is given to doctors and medical boards are slow to react to dangerous practices. Suspensions and sanctions were rare for doctors who were negligent and breached their duty of care to their patients by overprescribing dangerous drugs.
Three Time Suspension Before Criminal Sentence
Shriharsh Pole was a doctor in Virginia with a long list of questionable practices. His license was first suspended in 2001 based on problems dating back to his fellowship at Georgetown Univerity's oncology department. Records indicate a number of patients reported inappropriate touching, including unnecessary and unusually long breast examinations. Pole later made false claims about his Georgetown record. Additionally, a patient died after Pole failed to properly test and evaluate a patient complaining of chest pain.
After Pole was allowed to return to practice, his license was again suspended in 2009 when the Virginia board found he was prescribing opioids without proper examinations or follow-ups. He was able to return to practice a year later.
In 2013, Pole's license was again suspended because of his distribution of opioids. After a 4-year federal investigation, it was determined Pole's clinic had distributed 600,000 oxycodone pills, often without patients ever being examined.
According to the U.S. Attorney in charge of the criminal prosecution, “Pole put highly addictive, dangerous drugs into the hands of scores of customers that had no actual need for them. It is exactly the type of irresponsible behavior that continues to fuel the opioid epidemic that is gripping our communities.”
Pole was eventually sentenced to 7 years in prison.
Pushing Opioids and Steroids
Some doctors will prescribe patients with medications and treatments even if they are medically unnecessary or dangerous. It took a DEA investigation and criminal charges before New Jersey pursued a license suspension for a doctor prescribing painkillers, anabolic steroids, and looking to get into the medical marijuana market.
Roger Lallemand Jr. was the subject of an investigation that he was improperly prescribing medications to patients, including OxyContin and Roxicodone. The doctor was also accused of pushing unnecessary testosterone prescriptions. An undercover DEA agent posed as a patient and in under 3 minutes was given a prescription for oxycodone.
A criminal complaint also alleged the doctor falsified the medical records after the Board of Medical Examiners confronted Lallemand. Other records indicated continued painkiller prescriptions for a patient who had been hospitalized from jaundice and was suffering from liver disease. The deputy attorney general wrote that the doctor had demonstrated gross malpractice, gross negligence, and/or gross incompetence.
Lallemand's license was eventually revoked in 2013.
Overprescribing Medication Can Be Dangerous
Prescribing medication to a patient who does not need medication can be dangerous. It can cause dangerous drug interactions or lead to addiction. If you were improperly prescribed medications or treatments because of a doctor's greed, the doctor should be held accountable.