Doctor Found Guilty Of Distributing Suboxone

06 May, 2019 Liz Carey

                               

Wheeling, WV (WorkersCompensation.com) – It only took six days for a jury to find a West Virginia doctor guilty of illegally distributing medication to treat opioid addiction.

Dr. George “Jeep” Naum was found guilty last week of illegally distributing controlled substances, after his trial in US District Court. Officials said Naum conspired with others to illegally distribute Suboxone over the course of eight years from Advance Healthcare, Inc., a West Virginia drug treatment center.

“Successful prosecutions like this one are complex, time consuming and require great effort by talented prosecutors and law enforcement agents. The vast majority of medical providers are honorable and law abiding professionals,” Bill Powell, US Attorney in the case, said in a statement. “However, our determination to bring drug dealing doctors and other medical providers who violate the criminal laws and simultaneously ignore their professional obligations to do no harm is unwavering.”

Naum faces up to 10 years in jail and fines of up to $250,000 on one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances outside the bounds of professional medical practice, and four counts of aiding and abetting the distribution of controlled substances outside his medical practice. Naum was found not guilty of one count of aiding and abetting.  He will be sentenced at a later date by Senior U.S. District Judge Irene M. Keeley, who presided over the trial in Wheeling.

Naum was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2018 along with Dr. Feliz Brizuela, Jr, and business associate Eric Drake. Authorities began their investigation into Brizuela and Naum’s prescription practices at Advance Healthcare in 2016.

The doctors were accused of conspiring to distribute buprehorphine, known as Suboxone, to opioid addicts without the proper medical supervision.

“The evidence at trial will be that Dr. Naum and Dr. Brizuela essentially leased their (Drug Enforcement Administration) registration numbers to Advance Healthcare co-owner Eric Drake and Sharon Jackson, a registered nurse, in exchange for monthly payments of several thousand dollars,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Wagner said in a court motion.

While Drake pleaded guilty in October to one count of distribution of a controlled substance, Brizuela faced trial in January and was convicted on 15 counts of kickbacks and distribution stemming from his private practice in Morgantown, WV. Jackson pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy in 2017.

According to the indictment, the two doctors had a waiver that allowed them to prescribe Suboxone for medication-assisted treatment of opioid addiction, but that other office personnel were not authorized to prescribe it.

“The evidence at trial will be that neither physician regularly saw their patients; neither physician determined the appropriate dosages of Suboxone; and neither physician ordered prescriptions for Suboxone to the patients at Advance Healthcare,” Wagner said in a motion, according to the Tribune-Review. “Instead, both physicians generally saw their patients, at best, on one occasion, and allowed Ms. Jackson to give cursory examinations to patients (including new patients), to decide what amount of Suboxone to give patients, and then to order and call in those prescriptions to local pharmacies, all without the supervision of the doctors.”

Naum’s attorney said Naum’s position is that their practices of allowing their nurses to prescribe the drug were well within the usual practices at medication-assisted treatment facilities in other states.

“While this (court) district is prosecuting physicians for expanding treatment through the use of nurses and other providers, the state of Vermont is applauding it,” Chapman said in a court filing.

The Vermont ‘hub and spoke’ system creates regional addiction treatment centers, or hubs, staffed by doctors and a team of nurses that are supported by ‘spokes,’ or regular doctors’ offices, that provide medication-assisted treatment.

According to a statement by the US Attorney’s office, the investigation was assisted by the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, along with the FBI, the US Department of Health and Human Services, the W.V. Office of Insurance Commissioner Fraud Division and several other West Virginia officials.

Ohio BWC spokesperson Melissa Vance said in an email interview with workersCompensation.com that while the Ohio BWC’s Special Investigations Department is a member of the US Attorney General’s task force, no services were provided by Naum to any Ohio BWC claimants.

 


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    About The Author

    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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