A neurologist who previously practiced in Washington pleaded guilty last week to federal charges for prescribing painkillers to women with whom he had a personal relationship.
Dr. Philip Dean, 62, Warrenton, is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 20, on felony charges of illegally distributing opiate medications and making a false statement to the Medicare program.
According to the plea agreement reached Wednesday, Aug. 22, Dean operated a medical office and was the doctor for three women who he had personal relationships with — sometimes living with them on different occasions.
Dean prescribed the opioid pain relief medications to the women, including oxycodone, hydrocodone, and several forms of fentanyl. The charges stem from Dean’s involvment with two of the women.
Dean admitted in his plea agreement that his opioid prescribing decisions exposed these patients to a risk of serious bodily injury, given the potency and side effects of the drugs he was prescribing and the patients’ histories of drug problems.
Dean has been working from an office in Warrenton for more than 10 years. He had worked in the Mercy Hospital Washington facility from 1987 to 2004, where he had “hospital privileges” but was never an integrated Mercy physician, Mercy officials said in March.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, Eastern District of Missouri, Dean was aware that one of the women had lost her health care provider license after “serious prescription drug abuse problems.”
Dean also was aware that she had been involved in motor vehicle accidents and traffic stops by police after driving while intoxicated of prescription drugs.
In 2015-16, Dean prescribed the woman with several opioids, including fentanyl that was only approved for use by cancer patients with breakthrough pain — the patients did not have cancer. The woman repeatedly consumed 30-day prescribed supplies of the drugs before the 30 days had elapsed.
Dean began prescribing the drugs to a family member of the woman after recognizing that duplicative and overlapping prescriptions would raise suspicion. Medicare funded the prescriptions not knowing that the female patient was taking the medications.
Dean personally picked up and paid a copayment for one hydrocodone prescriptions that he wrote for the woman using another patient’s name.
Dean prescribed the second woman with codeine, an opiate pain medication and controlled substance, March 31, 2017, after exchanging text messages of a personal nature with her, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
The doctor did not examine the woman before issuing the prescription. Medical records seized during the execution of a search warrant at Dean’s medical office showed that the woman had not been a patient at the office since Jan. 24, 2017.
“This is an outrageous violation of the trust our society commits to physicians. Dr. Dean violated that trust and exploited his drug-dependent patients,” said U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen. “On top of it all, the taxpayers were forced to foot the bill for his crimes.”
Dean pleaded guilty before Senior U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber. He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and/or fines up to $500,000, for the drug distribution, and a maximum penalty of five years in prison and/or fines up to $250,000 for the false statement to Medicare.
In determining the actual sentences, a judge is required to consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide recommended sentencing ranges.
Dean was indicted March 15 by the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Missouri with eight felony charges for making false statements to Medicare and Medicaid and illegally distributing fentanyl, hydrocodone and other controlled prescription drugs without a legitimate medical purpose.
This case was investigated by the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Drug Enforcement Administration, with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Warrenton Police Department, and the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Missouri Attorney General’s Office.
Steve Hanson, with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, Kansas City Region, was the special agent in charge of the investigation for the department.
“Regarding our agency’s ongoing efforts in combating our nation’s opioid crisis, our office will continue to aggressively pursue those who misuse their positions and recklessly prescribe medication to our beneficiaries,” said Hanson.
William J. Callahan was the special agent in charge of the case for the Drug Enforcement Administration.
“Prescription opioids serve an important purpose when used legitimately for patients suffering from chronic pain and illness,” he said. “In this particular case, we had a doctor with the power to write prescriptions misrepresenting the truth, supplying narcotics to people with serious addiction issues that he was aware of and bilking all of us who pay taxes while doing it.
“The Drug Enforcement Administration will continue to pursue these bad actors to bring them to justice,” Callahan added. “Addiction to opioids is a serious illness and we will not allow doctors to abuse their authority for personal gain.”