A doctor from Gastonia, North Carolina, has been accused of seeking sexual favors from female patients in exchange for addictive prescription opioids. According to a lawsuit filed by federal prosecutors, Dr. Michael Alson Smith prescribed heavily controlled drugs in 2017 to female patients with opioid addiction at Mt. Holly Family Practice in exchange for sex. Smith even billed Medicare and Medicaid for reimbursement for patient visits.
According to court documents, Smith owned Mt. Holly Family Practice and was the sole male doctor there. His clients included several patients battling painful conditions and substance use disorders. He had federal approval to run an opioid addiction treatment program from his family-practice offices. Prosecutors believe that the sex-for-prescriptions trade began in January 2017 and continued for the next 10 months.
According to prosecutors, in August 2017, Smith forced a female opioid user, a mother of three-year-old baby girl, to have sex with him in the examination room. Following the act, he increased the woman’s dosage of clonazepam without conducting any proper medical examination. In September 2017, the same female patient returned to the clinic, but this time with her three-month-old son. Following a sexual act, Smith wrote new prescriptions for clonazepam and buprenorphine HCL, the documents said. Later, Smith submitted a claim for $78.76 to the North Carolina Medicaid program to cover the woman’s visit. Further, prosecutors alleged that Medicaid paid an additional sum of $131.60 for fraudulent prescriptions written for the woman.
In January 2017, Smith threatened to stop treating a female patient with drug addiction if she didn’t give in to his demands. According to the documents, the woman was pressured to accept the deal, and she ended up meeting the doctor in his chamber for sex over the next 10 months. Overall, Smith wrote illegal prescriptions for more than 1,000 units of buprenorphine HCL; 120 10mg oxycodone acetaminophen tablets; 630 units of clonazepam, and over 11,100 units of alprazolam.
Citing grounds of “immoral and dishonorable conduct,” the North Carolina Medical Board suspended Smith’s license in October 2017. According to sources, Smith has agreed to plead guilty to the charges of writing fraudulent prescriptions and health care fraud. He could be sentenced to over 20 years in prison and a fine of $750,000.
Need to curb opioid addiction menace
The opioid epidemic is a real problem in the American society. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 200,000 people in the U.S. succumbed to overdoses related to prescription opioids between 1999 and 2016. The CDC data also shows that over 46 people die every day from prescription opioid overdoses.
With millions of Americans finding themselves languishing in throes of opioid abuse, experts believe full-blown addiction is the result of complete emotional dependence on the prescription painkillers. The only way to embark on the road to sobriety is to undergo a customized addiction treatment program at a professional rehab to reverse the negative effects of addictive opioid medications.
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