The U.S. Attorney's Office has reached a civil settlement with Saint Francis Medical Center (SFMC), resolving the government’s claims under the Controlled Substances Act.
According to a press release from the Department of Justice this month, the U.S. government's allegations were that SFMC employed a Farmington physician, Brett Dickinson, who wrote prescriptions for controlled substances without legitimate medical purposes and outside the usual course of professional practice.
As part of the settlement, SFMC agreed to pay $1,624,957.67.
The United States alleged that SFMC, through Dickinson’s actions in the scope of his employment, issued invalid prescriptions for opioids such as morphine, hydromorphone, and oxycodone.
According to the United States’ allegations, Dickinson prescribed these opioids to patients simultaneously with muscle relaxers and benzodiazepines. The United States claimed that such drugs are known to enhance the addictive, euphoric effects of opioids and, as a result, are commonly sought-after in combination with opioids by individuals with substance abuse disorders and individuals who seek to use opioids recreationally.
The United States alleged that Dickinson issued these prescriptions while ignoring warning signs of drug diversion or misuse, including aberrant urine drug test results and patients’ previous hospital treatment for medical problems related to drug misuse.
Although not part of the settlement agreement, in August 2021, SFMC voluntarily incorporated the Foundation for Opioid Prescribing Education in the State of Missouri.
According to SFMC, the foundation, which the health care company funded with an initial contribution of $1 million, will be used to fund education programs for physicians and other healthcare professionals in Southeast Missouri on best practices in prescribing opioids and managing patients with chronic pain issues.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said SFMC fully cooperated with the United States’ investigation of the case.
Additionally, as part of the settlement, SFMC agreed to cooperate with the United States’ investigation of individuals not released in the settlement agreement, including cooperation by furnishing documents related to “the prescribing of controlled substances by Dickinson,” the press release said.
“When Dr. Dickinson recklessly prescribed controlled substances without regard for his patients’ well-being, he violated the trust our communities extend to healthcare professionals. We appreciate the steps taken by Saint Francis Medical Center to prevent such illegal behavior by its staff in the future,” said Special Agent in Charge for the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Curt L. Muller. “In coordination with our law enforcement partners, our agents will continue to investigate such fraud schemes and protect the public from unscrupulous prescribers.”
The Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services, Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Missouri Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit investigated the case. Assistant United States Attorney Amy Sestric handled the case.
Bobby Radford is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org