LAWFUEL – The US Law Newswire
PANAMA CITY PHYSICIAN SENTENCED ON DRUG AND FRAUD CHARGES FROM IMPROPER
DISPENSING OF CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES
TALLAHASSEE, FL – Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, Gregory R.
Miller, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida and Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration Miami Field Division announced that a former Panama City “pain management” physician, John Q. Durfey, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on six counts of distribution of controlled substances and six counts of health care fraud.
“Doctors are supposed to be healers, not enablers for drug addicts,”
said Attorney General McCollum. “This ‘doctor’ was no better than a drug dealer hiding behind his practitioner’s license.”
United States Attorney Miller commended the tireless efforts of investigators of the agencies involved in this complex investigation, and praised the cooperation of citizens and pharmacists who alerted investigators to excessive prescribing of highly addictive controlled substances by Durfey. United States Attorney Miller stated that, “the protection of citizens in the community from licensed doctors who dispense highly addictive controlled substances such as OxyContin outside the usual course of professional practice is a primary concern of health care fraud investigations. The North Florida Health Care Task Ford will vigorously investigate and identify those medical practitioners who use their licenses to peddle controlled substances to abusers and addicts outside the course of standard medical practice. This conduct, along with the theft of public funds and fraud committed against the taxpayers and health care benefit programs, remains a priority with the Department of Justice.”
“A doctor who illegally prescribes narcotics from the confines of his office is no different than a petty drug dealer selling from any street corner in America,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Trouville. “DEA will continue to aggressively pursue those who deal in death and destruction in our communities.”
From August 2001 through August 2006, Durfey operated the Emerald Coast Pain Center in Panama City. During the course of a criminal investigation into his practices, a medical expert in the field of pain management and addiction determined that Durfey failed to meet the usual standards of care when prescribing controlled substances and often lacked the proper documentation to support his prescriptions. A Federal grand jury found that Durfey prescribed excessive quantities of controlled substances, failed to monitor patients’ use and/or abuse of the prescribed controlled substances, and prescribed controlled substances to patients knowing they were addicted to or misusing the controlled substances and wanted additional quantities to support their drug habits. Dispensing these prescriptions under such circumstances, even as a physician, is a violation of the Federal Controlled Substances Act.
In most instances, the illegally dispensed prescriptions were paid for by health care benefit programs including the Florida Medicaid program.
The investigation further revealed that in numerous instances, Durfey billed benefit programs for personally seeing patients at Emerald Coast Pain Center on dates when he was out of town, sometimes even out of the country. Durfey and his office manager, Rhonda Fenwick, were indicted in December 2006 on conspiracy, unlawful dispensing of controlled substances, mail fraud, and health care fraud charges. Fenwick pled guilty to three counts of health care fraud in July and is scheduled to be sentenced on October 11, 2007.
On May 30, 2007, Durfey appeared before Judge Rodgers and pled guilty to six counts of health care fraud and six counts of dispensing controlled substances outside the normal course of professional practice. At the time of his guilty plea, Durfey admitted to the following:
– prescribing controlled substances to patients despite the patients
having toxicological tests positive for cocaine, marijuana, or amphetamines, or negative for the prescribed controlled substances;
– prescribing excessive quantities of controlled substances to patients
and the prescribing was outside the usual practice of medicine and not for legitimate medical purposes;
– prescribing controlled substances to patients knowing that the
patients were addicted to the controlled substances, were misusing the controlled substances, and were requesting additional quantities of controlled substances to support the patients’ drug habits;
– continuing to prescribe addictive controlled substances
notwithstanding prior overdoses by the patients on the prescribed drugs and the receipt of information;
– preparing prescriptions for controlled substances for patients to
obtain when the defendant would be out of his medical office, and
– submitting or causing the submission of fraudulent claims to health
care benefit programs for office visits for patients whom the defendant had not seen because he was out of town, and for office visits for patients who had failed to appear for appointments with the defendant.
At today’s hearing, United States District Judge M. Casey Rodgers sentenced Durfey, 76, to 20 years imprisonment on each of six counts of distribution of controlled substances in which Durfey prescribed quantities of oxycodone, morphine, fentanyl (duragesic), methadone, hydrocodone, and hydromorphone (dilaudid) to patients without determining a sufficient medical necessity for the prescription of controlled substances and in quantities and dosages that would cause patients to abuse and misuse the controlled substances. At the sentencing hearing, it was revealed that two of the drug counts involved patients who died of drug overdoses resulting from the defendant’s improper prescribing of controlled substances.
Additionally, the defendant was sentenced to six concurrent 120-month terms of imprisonment on six counts of health care fraud which involved the defendant submitting false claims to health care benefit programs for payment for medical services, namely, office visits that were never provided. United States District Judge M. Casey Rodgers also ordered Durfey to pay a special assessment of $1,200 to the United States, and to pay restitution in the amount of $466,723.03 to Medicare, Tricare, BlueCross BlueShield of Florida, and the State of Florida’s Medicaid program.
The prosecution was the result of a joint Federal/State North Florida Health Care Fraud Task Force investigation that involved the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the National Drug Intelligence Center, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Attorney General’s Office Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, the Florida Department of Financial Services – Fraud Division, and the Florida Department of Health.