Saturday, February 7, 2009

Prescription Drug Fraud, Insurance Fraud, Forgery & Identity Theft -- Physician Charged In Riverside County

On February 2, 2009, the Riverside District Attorney’s Office filed 276 felony counts against Dr. Lisa Barden of Rancho Cucumonga, who allegedly stole the identities of patients to obtain highly addictive pain killers. The investigation of Dr. Barden by the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement began in November 2007.

As attorneys who protect peoples' rights under the Constitution, please remember that an indictment or felony complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in court.

The felony complaint alleges that Dr. Barden illegally obtained prescription drugs on 131 separate occasions from more than 43 different pharmacies. It is alleged that Dr. Barden obtained more than 30,000 tablets of prescription painkillers, including hydrocodone (Vicodin) and oxycodone (Oxycotin). The 276 felony counts included: commercial burglary, forgery, obtaining a controlled substance by fraud, possession of a controlled substance, insurance fraud and identity theft. Agents recovered from her home multiple prescription pads for 12 different doctors, as well as the personal information of 93 people who are alleged victims of identity theft.

The investigation was led by the Riverside Regional Pharmaceutical Narcotic Enforcement Team, which is a cooperative effort with the California Department of Insurance, Fraud Division and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The State Attorney General has created a plan to address prescription drug abuse in the state and make it easier for doctors to keep track of prescription drug records. Prescription drug abuse can have serious public safety consequences, as many abusers hold down critical jobs including truck drivers, transit operators and medical practitioners.

This prosecution is part of a bigger plan by the Attorney General's office. Last year, the Attorney General's office unveiled a plan to provide doctors and pharmacies with real-time Internet access to patient prescription drug histories. Under that proposal, health professionals will have computer access to the drug histories of patients, replacing the current outdated system that required mailing or faxing written requests for information. Each year, more than 60,000 such requests are made to the California Department of Justice. The state’s database, known as the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES), contains 86 million entries for prescription drugs dispensed in California, giving health care professionals the technology they need to fight the prescription drug abuse currently burdening California’s health care system.

According to the latest Department of Justice “Drug Trends” report, Valium, Vicodin, and Oxycontin are the most prevalent pharmaceutical drugs obtained fraudulently. Vicodin and Oxycontin are the two most abused pharmaceutical drugs in the United States.

Commentary For Those Physicians And Practitioners Who Abuse Prescription Drugs Or Illegally Prescribe Them: If you are a doctor who is facing your own prescription drug problem or are illegally writing prescriptions for others for payment or otherwise, the best time to address your problems is as early as you can. Obtaining legal advice under attorney-client confidentiality and seeking your own professional help can assist you in preventing the complete loss of your license and criminal prosecution. There is significant stress on health care providers and the easy access to prescription drugs can be tempting.

Most of the physicians or health care providers who come to us that have substance abuse problems or financial issues that caused them to write prescriptions for money wait until they find themselves in a hole too deep to get out of on their own. We make referrals to treatment centers, work with the professional boards and create a strategy to prevent our clients’ lives from unravelling.

Any questions or comments should be directed to: Tracy Green is a principal at Green and Associates in Los Angeles, California.  They focus their practice on the representation of individuals, businesses, licensed professionals, particularly health care professionals and businesses including pharmacies, pharmacists, pain management clinics, weight loss clinics, individual physicians, corporate providers and group practices, in civil, administrative and criminal cases.


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