A New Jersey orthopedic surgeon has been temporarily barred from prescribing controlled dangerous substances (CDS) based on allegations he prescribed high dosages of addictive opioid painkillers to his patients for years without a legitimate medical purpose, often while turning a blind eye to signs that patients may have been abusing the drugs or diverting them for illegal purposes.
The New Jersey Office of The Attorney General announced on March 1, 2018 that the New Jersey orthopedic surgeon must also cease practicing medicine until the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners (“Board”) approves a practice monitor to be physically present for all his encounters with patients and to immediately report any gross deviations from the standard of care.
The Complaint filed with the Board alleges that the New Jersey orthopedic surgeon engaged in professional misconduct and gross negligence in treating nine patients between 2012 and 2017, including keeping patients on pain pills for years without cause; failing to diagnose and/or treat patients’ underlying conditions; improperly treating conditions outside his area of expertise without referring patients to specialists; and, performing surgeries without first establishing a legitimate medical need.
A review of the medical records for nine of the New Jersey orthopedic surgeon’s patients led to New Jersey charging that he endangered the patients’ life, health, welfare, or safety by:
(1) Failing to conduct any routine urine or blood testing, and/or to conduct regular lookups on the NJ Prescription Monitoring Program to ensure patients’ proper use of CDS;
(2) Failing to acknowledge clear signs of potential drug abuse and/or drug diversion in patients;
(3) Discouraging one patient from using illegal narcotics by telling him “anything that drugs can do on the street, my medications will do better and safer” and to “just call me”;
(4) Treating patient complaints of hyper tension, upper respiratory issues, attention deficit disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, “car phobia,” and other conditions outside his area of expertise – often with CDS like Xanax, Adderall, and cough syrup with codeine – without a complete history and physical exam, and without referrals to specialists;
(5) Failing to conduct bloodwork or other tests on two patients to mitigate potential risks associated with long-term use of NSAIDS and Prednisone, even when one patient reported rectal bleeding and gastrointestinal problems;
(6) Performing surgery on one patient’s knee, and another patient’s shoulder, despite a lack of diagnostic findings to support the medical necessity for the procedures; and
(7) Prescribing addictive pain medication to patients for years without a pain management plan, as required, and continuing them on high dosages of the drugs even when patients reported no relief from pain.
The Interim Order Imposing Limitations on Practice requires the New Jersey orthopedic surgeon to hire and pay for the practice monitor, who must be a Board-certified orthopedic surgeon. The practice monitor is required to provide the Board with monthly reports regarding the orthopedic surgeon’s practice and to immediately report, orally and in writing, any gross deviations from the standard of care.
Within six months, the orthopedic surgeon must complete a Board-approved evaluation to assess his ability to safely and competently engage in orthopedics and prescribe CDS. In addition to the bar on prescribing CDS, the orthopedic surgeon is prohibited from prescribing Prozac, which is not a controlled substance.
The Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs of the New Jersey Office of The Attorney General stated: “These allegations call into question [the New Jersey orthopedic surgeon’s] medical judgment and fitness to practice. The Board’s primary responsibility is to protect the public and the temporary restrictions placed on his practicing authority provide the Board with a mechanism to closely monitor his conduct as the case against him moves forward, and to swiftly intervene if necessary.”
If a physician who treated you or a loved one prescribed opioids in amounts or dosages that may have been improper and you or your loved one suffered harm as a result, you should promptly find a medical malpractice lawyer near you who may investigate your opioid malpractice claim for you and represent you and/or your loved one in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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