AG Mark Herring pursues accountability for professional violations involving opiates

mark herringAs part of his recently announced five-point plan to combat the rise in heroin and prescription drug abuse and overdose fatalities in Virginia, Attorney General Mark Herring and lawyers in his office are aggressively pursuing action against pharmacists, doctors, or other professionals who overprescribe, steal, or otherwise illegally make opiates available.

“These individuals violated their professional duties and put the public, their patients, and sometimes themselves at risk by making prescription opiates available illegally,” said Attorney General Herring. “We will take aggressive action against anyone whose reckless behavior makes it easier to access opiates.”

In recent weeks, several healthcare professionals have had their credentials suspended or revoked after the Office of Attorney General presented evidence to the relevant professional regulatory board that these individuals were making opiates available illegally.

 

Board of Medicine

John M. Stauffer, M.D.(New Market)–Stauffer’s license was summarily suspended on September 10, 2014. Stauffer had a romantic and physical relationship with a patient who was later found unresponsive in her apartment and admitted to Sentara Rockingham Memorial Hospital for treatment for substance withdrawal.  During the course of treatment, the patient disclosed and Stauffer subsequently admitted to the relationship. Further investigation revealed that Stauffer prescribed a series of drugs including Wellbutrin, Xanax, Ritalin and Oxycodone without requesting any medical records or performing any diagnostic examinations. In 2012, he began prescribing hydrocodone, with no evidence of its necessity, in addition to the other medications.

 

 

Board of Pharmacy

Heather L. Young, Pharmacy Technician(Amelia, Cumberland)–On September 5, 2014, in lieu of a formal hearing, Young entered into a Consent Order with the Board for the revocation of her registration to practice as a pharmacy technician in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Young’s registration had previously been summarily suspended after a presentation of evidence by the Attorney General’s office. Young admitted that during the course of her work as a pharmacy technician in Amelia and Cumberland between October 2013 and May 2014, she diverted an unknown quantity of Hydrocodone tablets, a Schedule III controlled substance, and an unknown quantity of liquid Hydrocodone/Chlorpheniramine, a Schedule III controlled substance for her personal and unauthorized use and for distribution to another individual for sale to other persons.

On August 5, 2014, Young was indicted in Amelia County Circuit Court on five (5) counts of obtaining prescription drugs by fraud and one (1) count of attempting to obtain prescription drugs by fraud, all Class 6 felonies.  A hearing on the charges is scheduled for October 7, 2014 in the Circuit Court for Amelia County.

Carolyn A. Fields, Pharmacy Technician(Russell County)–On September 9, 2014, the Board voted unanimously to revoke the registration of Carolyn A. Fields to practice as a pharmacy technician in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Her license had previously been summarily suspended on July 29 after evidence was presented by the Attorney General’s Office that Fields admitted she took about three 100-count bottles of Hydrocodone pain management pills, a Schedule III controlled substance and five 100-count bottles of Alprazolam pills, a benzodiazepine and Schedule IV controlled substance used to treat anxiety and panic disorders.  Fields further reported that she stole the pills for use by a relative. Fields has also pleaded guilty to two felony counts of embezzlement in the Circuit Court for Wise County, Virginia.

Tihesa Elliott, Pharmacy Technician(Portsmouth)–On September 9, 2014, the Board unanimously approved the summary suspension of Elliott’s registration after it was alleged she admitted to diverting more than 4,000 tablets of hydrocodone of various strengths (Schedule III) and a small amount of oxycodone (Schedule II) from her place of employment for sale to another individual(s).  She currently faces three felony charges related to her diversion and conspiracy to distribute in Portsmouth Circuit Court.

Kiley Kessler, Pharmacy Technician(Hanover)–On September 9, 2014, the Board unanimously approved the summary suspension of Kessler’s registration after it was alleged she admitted to diverting more than 4,000 tablets of hydrocodone of various strengths (Schedule III) from her place of employment for her own personal and unauthorized use. She currently faces felony charges in Hanover County related to her theft.

 

Board of Nursing

Carolina A. Johnson, L.P.N. (Richmond area)–On September 17, 2014, the Board voted unanimously to summarily suspend Johnson’s license to practice practical nursing.  The  Commonwealth’s evidence showed that during the course of her employment with Westminster Canterbury of Richmond, Virginia, between on May 30, 2014 through July 30, 2014, by her own admission, Johnson diverted liquid morphine, a Schedule II controlled substance and opiate used to treat physical pain, and thirty-nine (39) Percocet tablets (a/k/a Oxycodone), also a Schedule II controlled substance and opiate used to treat physical pain, for her own personal and unauthorized use.  Johnson achieved this diversion by falsely documenting that a resident had pain and claiming that she withdrew and administered the resident’s Percocet to him.  She acquired the morphine by removing it from a bottle and refilling it with tap water. The Commonwealth’s evidence further showed Ms. Johnson purchased narcotic medications from street dealers and doctor shopped to obtain narcotic medications.  Between approximately August 15, 2012 and June 30, 2014, Ms. Johnson received fifteen prescriptions for opiates and eight prescriptions for benzodiazepines from twelve different providers.

Melissa Workman, R.N.(Spotsylvania)–On September 17, 2014, the Board of Nursing voted to summarily suspend Workman’s license to practice professional nursing.  Workman faces allegations related to her diversion of narcotic medications at her place of employment.  Specifically, Ms. Workman admitted that she willingly and knowingly claimed various narcotics were wasted and placed them in containers where a family member who worked at the same facility could retrieve them.


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