Physician Pleads Guilty to 52 Counts in Decade-Long Opioid Scheme

03 Mar, 2023 F.J. Thomas


Sarasota, FL ( –A Niles, Ohio physician has pled guilty to 52 counts in one of the most villainous opioid and fraud cases in recent history. Aged 65, Jeffrey B. Sutton, DO who was a neuromuscular medicine specialist plead guilty at the end of January to 31 counts of illegally prescribing patients opioids and other controlled substances, one count of illegally distributing controlled substances, and 20 counts of healthcare fraud.

While the case is focused on a time period of January 2015 through January of last year, according to the press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Northern District of Ohio, Sutton’s nefarious activity of questionable prescribing practices have been an issue for over a decade. In fact, many of his patients were prescribed opioids for periods longer than 10 years with little to no change, even in cases where he was well aware that protocol was not working. Sutton would prescribe short-term opioids for long periods of time without identifying treatment goals and plans. 

According to the press release, Sutton also prescribed opioids without identifying an appropriate pain diagnosis, without medical examinations, and without supporting imaging. As a result, Sutton fraudulently billed for both office visits and medications that were not medically necessary.

In addition to negligent prescribing practices, Sutton increased opioid dosages by more than 1,000 percent. Additionally, Sutton prescribed volumes that were 22 times the number of opioids identified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a risk for overdose. Sutton also wrote prescriptions for combinations of drugs that posed serious risk. One of the common combinations he prescribed was opioids and benzodiazepines, which include high risks of breathing difficulties, coma, and death. 

Sutton routinely prescribed opioids to patients that he knew had psychiatric issues, and problems with substance abuse. Although behaviors would be documented for abuse of cocaine or fentanyl, Sutton would routinely still issue prescriptions for opioids to those patients. 

According to a Medscape report, a patient with a whole host of psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia, depression, paranoia, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder in addition to substance abuse, became a patient of Suttons in 2007. Sutton was well aware of the patient’s issues and "narcotic-seeking" behavior. 

As a result of Sutton’s prescribing practices, the patient was hospitalized in 2018 at a weight of 80 pounds for complications from benzodiazepine, which she had gotten from Sutton. According to the Medscape report, Sutton continued to provide benzodiazepine prescriptions, and extreme doses of opioids, which in some cases exceeded 2000 morphine dosage. 

Even after his prescribing practices caused two hospitalizations for overdoses, 20 drug screens that indicated use of illicit drugs as well as the use of methadone and psychiatric medications, Sutton continued to prescribe opioids. What is interesting is that even with such outlandish prescribing practices for over a decade, it wasn’t until February of last year that Sutton relinquished his Drug Enforcement Administration Certificate of Registration of Controlled Substances Privileges. The State Medical Board did not send notification of revoking his medical license until September of last year. Sutton’s medical license was finally pulled in January of this year.  

Sutton also admitted to having sex with at least three patients in exchange for opioid prescriptions. According to the press release, Sutton admitted to engaging in sex during office visits. 

Sutton is scheduled to be sentenced on May 23, 2023. 


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    About The Author

    • F.J. Thomas

      F.J. Thomas has worked in healthcare business for more than fifteen years in Tennessee. Her experience as a contract appeals analyst has given her an intimate grasp of the inner workings of both the provider and insurance world. Knowing first hand that the industry is constantly changing, she strives to find resources and information you can use.

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