An Indian-origin psychiatrist in the US has to pay USD 1,45,000 as settlement to resolve allegations that he overprescribed opioids to his patients outside the usual course of his professional practice, the Justice Department said.
The USD 1,45,000 settlement stems from an investigation that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) initiated into whether Prakash Bhatia improperly prescribed opioids to his patients at his clinic in violation of the civil provisions of the Controlled Substances Act.
Mr Bhatia of San Diego previously owned and operated Progressive Health and Wellness clinic in California, practicing pain medicine.
The Justice Department on Thursday said that according to the Controlled Substances Act, health care providers may write prescriptions for opioids only for a legitimate medical purpose while acting in the usual course of their professional practice.
Based on its investigation, the DEA alleged that from March 2013 to December 2017, Mr Bhatia wrote opioid prescriptions, including for drugs such as morphine, oxycodone, fentanyl and oxymorphone without a legitimate medical purpose and outside the usual course of his professional practice, in violation of the Controlled Substances Act.
Mr Bhatia prescribed these medications in combination with depressant medications (including benzodiazepines and muscle relaxants), which are known to increase the risk of abuse, addiction and overdose.
"Overprescribing opioids to patients who need treatment for their pain has contributed to the opioid epidemic in this country," US Attorney Robert Brewer said.
The Justice Department said while it continues to aggressively investigate prescribers who brazenly seek to make money by writing opioid prescriptions to those who have no pain, the investigation signifies the department's willingness to scrutinize whether doctors treating patients who actually suffer painful conditions are nevertheless overprescribing opioids.
"Health care providers treating patients who suffer from pain must still only prescribe opioids in accordance with recognized and accepted medical standards," it said.
DEA Special Agent in Charge John Callery said by holding the medical community accountable for improperly writing opioid prescriptions, they are ensuring that people are "safe from illicit prescribers who enable the abuse of prescription drugs for financial benefit."