Virginia doctor could face life in prison for prescribing hundreds of thousands of opioids

  
Via:  sandy-2021492  •  3 weeks ago  •  24 comments

Virginia doctor could face life in prison for prescribing hundreds of thousands of opioids
A Virginia doctor could face life in prison at his sentencing next week for prescribing half a million doses of opioids to patients over a two-year period.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T



Joel Smithers, a 36-year-old father of five, was arrested at his southern Virginia practice in 2017.

In May, he was found guilty on more than 800 counts of illegally prescribing drugs, including the oxycodone and oxymorphone that killed a West Virginia woman.

Smithers’ mandatory minimum sentence is 20 years.

Officials said Smithers was part of an interstate drug distribution ring throughout West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia.

"I went and got medication without — I mean, without any kind of physical exam or bringing medical records, anything like that," a woman who said she became addicted after getting pills from Smithers testified in court.

His office was described in court as lacking medical supplies and having patients who slept outside and urinated in the parking lot.

"People only went there for one reason, and that was just to get pain medication that they (could) abuse themselves or sell it for profit," Christopher Dziedzic, a supervisory special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration who oversaw the investigation into Smithers, said.

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sandy-2021492
1  seeder  sandy-2021492    3 weeks ago
He previously had complaints at his former practice in West Virginia, but when authorities came to his office with a subpoena they found a dumpster filled with shredded documents and untested urine samples.
 
 
 
Paula Bartholomew
2  Paula Bartholomew    3 weeks ago

I guess he missed this part in the Hippocratic Oath....Do no harm.  As he will loose his license when convicted, he can spend the rest of his days as a prison orderly regulated to emptying bed pans.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
2.1  seeder  sandy-2021492  replied to  Paula Bartholomew @2    3 weeks ago

It's a bit infuriating that he blames some of his patients for lying to him.  He knew why they were there.  They knew why they were there.  Nobody twisted his arm and forced him to write those prescriptions.

"I learned several lessons the hard way about trusting people that I should not have trusted," he testified.

He apparently hasn't learned the lessons he needed to learn.

 
 
 
Kavika
3  Kavika     3 weeks ago

20 years isn't nearly long enough for me...Life is a better sentence.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
3.1  seeder  sandy-2021492  replied to  Kavika @3    3 weeks ago

20 is the mandatory minimum.  He may get more.  I hope the complaints about his prior office, and the fact that he skipped town, are taken into consideration.

 
 
 
Paula Bartholomew
3.1.1  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  sandy-2021492 @3.1    3 weeks ago

Unfortunately, that may be inadmissible under Previous Bad Acts if no charges were filed.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
3.1.2  seeder  sandy-2021492  replied to  Paula Bartholomew @3.1.1    3 weeks ago

Damn.

Seems to me that if charges were avoided by evading a subpoena, that should be admissible, but I'm no lawyer, and I don't write the laws.

 
 
 
igknorantzrulz
3.1.3  igknorantzrulz  replied to  sandy-2021492 @3.1    3 weeks ago

20 is the mandatory minimum.  He may get more.  I hope the complaints about his prior office, and the fact that he skipped town, are taken into consideration.

He was prescribing a Death Sentence for some, shouldn't he qualify for that which he chose to freely dispense ?

 
 
 
Paula Bartholomew
3.1.4  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  sandy-2021492 @3.1.2    3 weeks ago

,A good prosecutor could get around it with one statement even if a judge sustains the defense's objection.  They jury will still hear it and as they say "You can't unring a bell".  Even if the jury can't consider it, the seed has been planted.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
3.1.5  seeder  sandy-2021492  replied to  igknorantzrulz @3.1.3    3 weeks ago

For my part, I don't support the death penalty for any crime.

And in the case of prescription drug overdoses, I would find that to be especially problematic.  Yes, he prescribed the drugs, often without any reason to do so other than financial.  But those who sought him out were complicit, too.  Much as I despise what he did, I can't hold him solely responsible for addictions or overdoses.  He prescribed the drugs, but did not administer them.  His patients knew what they were doing.  There's too much responsibility to be shared among the whole lot (himself, his patients, drug manufacturers, pharmacist who did fill iffy scripts) for me to think he should hang for it.

 
 
 
igknorantzrulz
3.1.6  igknorantzrulz  replied to  sandy-2021492 @3.1.5    3 weeks ago

When big pHarma and doctors pushed basically synthetic Heroine and made it seem like no big deal, as many 'innocent' people didn't think twice about taking these drugs, especially since people tend to trust their doctors, i have to put 90 +% of blame on the systeem, specifically the doctors.

The harm and horror i've personally witnessed, is justification as possibly having the death penalty as an option and possible deterrent, to hold these DRUG PUSHERS accountable.

just my oh so humble opine on for profit addicts

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
3.1.7  seeder  sandy-2021492  replied to  igknorantzrulz @3.1.6    3 weeks ago

Doctors were told that Oxycontin wasn't as addictive as many meds already on the market.  They could now treat their chronic pain patients with less risk of addiction, they were told.  The opioid was packaged in capsules in such a way as to make recreational use difficult, they were told.

And then there was the philosophy regarding pain control whenever those doctors were in med school.  I can tell you that when I was in dental school, pain control was considered to be a patient right.  They shouldn't hurt, ever.  Pain was to be controlled, to the point that it should be nonexistent, or you were abusing your patient.  I graduated in 2001, and that philosophy hung on for a while.  Of course, it is radically different now, but the damage had already been done, and we had a lot of addicts because years ago, nobody was expected to cope with pain. 

Yes, this doctor, and many others, know that what they're doing is wrong.  But I can't blame the problem on doctors entirely.  Pharma shares a good bit of the blame, as do pharmacies (before prescription monitoring programs were the norm) who would fill multiple prescriptions for the same patient from different doctors, and as do patients themselves, some of whom resort to lies and threats to get their fix.

 
 
 
Paula Bartholomew
3.1.8  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  sandy-2021492 @3.1.7    3 weeks ago

The company that makes the prescription painkiller OxyContin (Purdue) is filing for bankruptcy protection amid lawsuits over opioid crisis.  

 
 
 
Paula Bartholomew
3.1.9  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  sandy-2021492 @3.1.5    3 weeks ago

I don't wish the DP for him either.  I would rather he rot in prison as Bubba bait.

 
 
 
igknorantzrulz
3.1.10  igknorantzrulz  replied to  Paula Bartholomew @3.1.9    3 weeks ago

I don't wish the DP for him either.  I would rather he rot in prison as Bubba bait.

Well, if he had two "Daddy's" , i guess he could rot in prison, and receive DP for the rest of his life.

 
 
 
Ender
4  Ender    3 weeks ago

I don't see how they are not keeping track of prescriptions to begin with. They have to write them out and a pharmacy has to distribute.

Seems like it should be easy to spot.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
4.1  seeder  sandy-2021492  replied to  Ender @4    3 weeks ago

Virginia has an online prescription monitoring program, so they should be fairly easy to spot.  But somebody has to actually go looking for the information, and I suppose they'd need a reason to do so.  Just a large number of opioid prescriptions may not be enough of a trigger - oncologists and hospice doctors would be continually under a microscope, just by the nature of what they do.

 
 
 
Ender
4.1.1  Ender  replied to  sandy-2021492 @4.1    3 weeks ago

Yeah, I guess it is a chain thing. I just think that most pharmacies would know the doctors and what they practice and subscribe. Usually including a variety of medications. If one so called doctor only prescribes opioids at large rates and no other medications, a red flag.

I wonder if he told people to shop around and not continually use the same place.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
4.1.2  seeder  sandy-2021492  replied to  Ender @4.1.1    3 weeks ago

According to another article I read, local pharmacies were starting to refuse his prescriptions, and he helped patients find ones that would.

But the monitoring program includes information on the patient, who prescribed the drug, and which pharmacy filled it, even if that pharmacy was in another state.

 
 
 
Ender
4.1.3  Ender  replied to  sandy-2021492 @4.1.2    3 weeks ago

In my state they took down a doc and a pharmacy. They were working together. That was several years ago so I don't remember much detail.

There was also a scam running around involving a doc and employees at Ingalls shipbuilding. If someone got an injury the doc would exaggerate the injury and get them on some kind of disability program with the company.

I knew several people that may have injured themselves yet it was not that bad and they recovered quickly yet they could go to this one doc and it was made as they were permanently injured just so they could get some kind of disability pension check from the company. Paid the doc in cash if I remember correctly.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
4.1.4  seeder  sandy-2021492  replied to  Ender @4.1.3    3 weeks ago

My sister is a PA, and lived and worked in southern WV.  My parents still live in WV, and her place was a halfway point when I went to visit them, so I'd often stop and have lunch or dinner with her on the way.

One day when I called to see when she could go to lunch, she told me her building was on lockdown, so she may not be able to meet me.  I asked why, and she said that the pain clinic (read: pill mill) next door had an angry patient threatening to blow the place up if he didn't get his drugs.  Of course, I was alarmed for her safety, but she just shrugged it off.  "Oh, sis, that happens a few times a week."

I'm glad she's not working there anymore.

WV also recently took down a doc for overprescribing.  But there are always more that skate by under the radar.

 
 
 
igknorantzrulz
4.1.5  igknorantzrulz  replied to  sandy-2021492 @4.1.4    3 weeks ago

your sister is a Pennsylvanian who lived and worked in WV...?

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
4.1.6  seeder  sandy-2021492  replied to  igknorantzrulz @4.1.5    3 weeks ago

Physician assistant.  Mid-level practitioner.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
4.1.7  seeder  sandy-2021492  replied to  sandy-2021492 @4.1.2    3 weeks ago
According to another article I read, local pharmacies were starting to refuse his prescriptions, and he helped patients find ones that would.

Found it:

https://www.wvgazettemail.com/news/us_and_world/doctor-facing-life-in-prison-for-thousands-of-opioid-doses/article_2da7d622-f043-5033-81d0-7a9f47bacbf1.html?fbclid=IwAR3PUlFssxaTGk0HLPhgqKqWE7tzyJhRhoAESFroYhsqPkFLET770ra2Ewo

When area pharmacists started refusing to fill prescriptions written by Smithers, he directed patients to far-flung pharmacies, including two in West Virginia. Prosecutors say Smithers also used some patients to distribute drugs to other patients. Four people were indicted in Kentucky on conspiracy charges.
 
 
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