Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Carmel on the Case: Doctors Crack Down on Doctors
Doctors accused of overprescribing addictive pain pills are getting a painful punishment from the state medical board, and the penalties are much harsher than they expected. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is On the Case.
Dr. Lawrence Rothenberg: "Even fairly smart people can do some really stupid things, and I'm living proof of that."
But he was in for a surprise.
Dr. George Thomas: "This is the kind of reasons why there are people dying in this state."
The panel, made up of fellow physicians, had little sympathy for the doctors before them, clearly showing anger when Rothenberg asked to continue prescribing controlled substances.
Dr. Zachariah Zachariah: "He should have thought about it when he was prescribing all these medications to people who didn't need it. He jeopardized the lives of lots of people in Florida."
Laurie Eubanks told the panel her son was one of those people harmed by pain pills.
Laurie Eubanks: "When I saw the medical records of our son and saw the amount of drugs that were prescribed, I was flabbergasted."
Eubanks says Dr. David VanDercar of Tampa got her son so addicted to drugs, he held up a drugstore -- with a gun -- to get oxycodone.
Laurie Eubanks: "I feel like he created an addict who became a criminal ... because of an addiction that all started with the overprescribing of narcotics."
Drs. Rothenberg and VanDercar, along with other doctors at the hearing, had worked out agreements with the state health department on their charges. The agreements included things like paying fines and having to take education courses.
The board can accept these agreements. But not this day.
Dr. Zachariah Zachariah: "We should focus on protecting the people of the state of Florida. That's our job."
The board issued much stiffer penalties, not the recommended reprimands. Both doctors had their licenses suspended, Dr. Rothenberg's for six months with increased fines and costs totaling more than $40,000.
Dr. VanDercar's suspension lasts until he is evaluated by a professional organization and reinstated by the board. He is facing fines and costs of more than $27,000.
These doctors and two other South Florida physicians were banned from prescribing narcotics or working in pain clinics again, something Laurie Eubanks wishes had happened before her son was hooked and sentenced to 32 years in prison for the drugstore robbery.
Laurie Eubanks: "Went right out in broad daylight to his car, parked in the front parking lot, crushed them and snorted them. Now, is that the mind of a criminal or is that the mind of an addict? You tell me."
She is pleased the doctor who got her son addicted is being punished. As for the doctors...
Carmel Cafiero: "How do you feel about what happened here today? You must be very disappointed."
Obviously some were not happy with the board's decisions. The doctors now have the option of accepting the board's decisions or appealing them.
Carmel Cafiero, 7News.
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