|NEWARK – Highlighting New Jersey’s ongoing fight against the prescription drug abuse epidemic, Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman and Consumer Affairs Director Eric T. Kanefsky today announced actions against a second round of New Jersey doctors who illegally sold prescriptions for highly addictive painkillers or steroids.
The five doctors named in this round of actions practiced in Camden, Gloucester, Hudson, and Monmouth counties. Each has been criminally convicted in federal or state court of illegally selling prescriptions for Controlled Dangerous Substances (CDS). Four of the doctors sold prescriptions for opiate painkillers; the fifth sold prescriptions for anabolic steroids.
Director Kanefsky this week initiated actions to prohibit the doctors from ever again being able to prescribe CDS in New Jersey, even if the State Board of Medical Examiners should one day reinstate their medical licenses. The announcement follows similar action Kanefsky took in October against 12 doctors (see www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/press/10032013.pdf).
“Doctors who make the decision to sell CDS prescriptions are a disgrace their profession and their violated oath to do no harm,” Attorney General Hoffman said. “New Jersey is fighting back against prescribers who contribute to America’s drug epidemic, and working to protect the public should they ever again be reinstated to practice medicine in our state.”
Physicians obtain their medical licenses through the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners. But no licensed physician may prescribe CDS without a CDS registration, granted by the Director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs.
Revocation of a physician’s CDS registration provides an extra layer of protection to the public, should the revoked doctor ask the Board of Medical Examiners to reinstate his or her medical license. Even if their license to practice medicine is one day restored, the doctor would still need to apply to the Consumer Affairs Director for reinstatement of his or her revoked CDS registration. The doctor would be required to make a clear and detailed demonstration as to why reinstatement of the CDS registration would be in the public interest.
In the cases of the following five doctors, Director Kanefsky issued Orders to Show Cause as to why their CDS registration should not be revoked. The Orders set hearing dates in approximately 45 days. Prior to the hearing, each doctor must provide a written explanation as to why his or her CDS registration should not be revoked. Failure to respond may result in the matter being considered in the doctor’s absence. Following the hearing, the Director may issue an order suspending or revoking the doctor’s New Jersey CDS registration.
- Pankaj Agrawal, who practiced in Pennsauken. According to information included in the Order to Show Cause, Agrawal allegedly sold prescriptions for Percocet and promethazine cough syrup with codeine, without any legitimate medical purpose, from January 2005 through June 2008. He also allegedly provided multiple CDS prescriptions in different names to the same person; exchanged prescriptions for large quantities of CDS in a McDonald’s parking lot in exchange for cash; issued narcotic prescriptions without performing a physical examination and without the patient having complained of pain; instructed patients to fill illegal CDS prescriptions at small pharmacies to avoid suspicions at larger chain pharmacies; and provided prescriptions for up to 6,000 CDS dosage units to one patient in exchange for cash. In March 2009, Agrawal pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey to illegally dispensing CDS by selling Percocet prescriptions, and to money laundering. He was sentenced to a 63 month federal prison term, and required to forfeit cash and property. The Board of Medical Examiners temporarily suspended Agrawal’s license in October 2008, following the filing of the federal criminal complaint, and revoked his license in August 2009 following his conviction.
- Clifton Howell, who practiced in Jersey City. Howell allegedly participated in a narcotics distribution network by writing fraudulent prescriptions for Percocet and Xanax between January 2009 and October 2009, according to information included in the Order to Show Cause. Pharmacies filled the fraudulent prescriptions for Medicaid beneficiaries – but the drugs, rather than being used by Medicaid patients, allegedly were sold throughout Hudson and Essex counties by the drug distribution ring. According to a Hudson County Grand Jury indictment, Howell allegedly issued CDS prescriptions for patients who were not present, issued CDS prescriptions without taking a patient history or conducting a medical examination, and submitted fictitious claims for CDS prescribing to Medicaid or insurance companies. Howell was arrested in October 2009, as the result of a joint investigation between the State Division of Criminal Justice and the Jersey City Police Department. Howell pleaded guilty in July 2011 to health care claims fraud. He was sentenced to a maximum term of four years in state prison, and required to pay the State of New Jersey partial restitution amounting to $128,081 plus a $101,281 penalty. The Board of Medical Examiners temporarily suspended Howell’s license in February 2010, and revoked his license in August 2011.
- Richard Lucente, who practiced in Middletown and in Staten Island, New York. Lucente allegedly conspired with other defendants at New York Anti-Aging and Wellness Medical Services, in Staten Island, to illegally sell prescriptions for CDS, including anabolic steroids and various forms of testosterone, to male patients, according to information included in the Order to Show Cause. Lucente also allegedly instructed the patients to fill the prescriptions at a Lowen’s pharmacy in Brooklyn, and received payments from the pharmacy in exchange. According to documents filed with the New York Board for Professional Medical Conduct, Lucente allegedly prescribed steroids and human growth hormone (HGH) to a bodybuilder who had previously had a heart transplant and was on various anti-rejection drugs; steroid abuse allegedly contributed to the bodybuilder’s subsequent death from cardiogenic shock. Lucente also allegedly prescribed steroids and HGH to a patient who had increased lipid levels due to steroid abuse. He allegedly prescribed more than 380 steroid or HGH prescriptions in a one-year period, all of which were filled at the Brooklyn pharmacy that in turn allegedly paid a kickback to a company owned by the physician. Lucente allegedly engaged in the conspiracy from December 2004 through September 2007. Lucente pleaded guilty in New York State Supreme Court in Kings County, and in March 2010 was sentenced to five years’ probation and 200 hours of community service. The New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners revoked Lucente’s license in May 2010.
- Robert H. Moss, a podiatrist who practiced in Williamstown. Moss allegedly prescribed oxycodone without a legitimate medical purpose from May 2008 through December 2009. Moss pleaded guilty in July 2011, in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey, to illegal distribution of oxycodone. He was sentenced to 60 months in federal prison. The Board of Medical Examiners temporarily suspended Moss’ license in December 2009 and revoked his license in November 2011.
- Pravin Vasoya, who practiced in Sewell. According to information included in the Order to Show Cause, Vasoya allegedly sold multiple CDS prescriptions out of his car, at various locations including a Pep Boys parking lot in Turnersville and a Target parking lot in Mount Laurel. The buyer on those occasions was an undercover Washington Township (Burlington County) Police detective, who was acting as part of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration task force. During those transactions in April and May 2008, Vasoya allegedly sold nine prescriptions for OxyContin and Roxicodone in exchange for $8,000. He allegedly wrote the prescriptions for four different patient names, and directed the undercover detective to provide him with driver’s license copies of the four individuals, in order to create fake patient profiles. Vasoya pleaded guilty to illegally dispensing CDS, and was sentenced in February 2009 to 57 months in federal prison. The Board of Medical Examiners revoked his license in November 2008.
For more information on the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs' initiative to halt the diversion and abuse of prescription drugs, view the Division's NJPMP website at www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov/pmp, and the Division's Project Medicine Drop website at www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov/meddrop.
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