Federal prosecutors announced the arrest of a Southern Californian doctor on charges of freely prescribing drugs to patients he failed to examine and is suspected of prescribing medications to five people who have died of overdoses as well as an intoxicated driver who purposely struck and killed a female bicyclist.
The well-known Los Angeles Dr. Dzung Ahn Pham, 57, faces charges of illegally distributing powerful opioids and is accused of prescribing drugs to addicts or people selling on the street. Along with prescribing the opiates after receiving text messages requesting specific quantities and doses.
According to a statement by U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna, “This case clearly and tragically illustrates the dangers of drug dealers armed with prescription pads.” Reporters have emailed and called Pham’s lawyer and to his clinic in Irvine, however, were never successful.
A CVS pharmacy stopped accepting prescriptions from him more than five years ago due to the massive amounts of pills flooding in from his patients, CVS claims Pham couldn’t justify the number of pills patients were picking up.
Osteopathic Medical Board reports, state officials were already alerted and aware of the illegal prescribing years before. In 2007 Pham was questioned by the board after being accused of excessive prescribing to an addict without the proper medical examination.
The case resulted in the board noting in Pham’s favor of never being disciplined before and the fact that only involved one patient. In the end, Pham expressed his apologies for failing to recognize a patient was an addict seeking drugs.
Pham was court ordered to complete courses on prescribing medications correctly, keeping a detailed record and had to participate in a clinical re-training program.
Despite the clinical programs and courses, Pham wrote prescriptions for five people who died from overdoses between 2014 and 2017. Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for U.S. attorney, said he had not been charged for those deaths.
Prosecutors identified one of the overdose deaths as a 21-year-old man, only by initials S.L.S who overdosed on a combination of heroin and two types of drugs Pham prescribed, leading to death. His mom thought of Pham as “Dr. Feelgood.”
Last month, a male driver struck and killed an off-duty firefighter training on his bike for a triathlon told police he was intoxicated on drugs prescribed by Pham. Investigators found several prescription bottles with Pham’s name scattered on the floor of the driver’s car.
The Drug Enforcement Administration has been investigating Pham since 2015, according to the affidavit by DEA Special Agent Lindsey Bellomy. Undercover agents discovered what they referred to as the “holy trinity,” three types of potent drugs. The affidavit said Pham directed the undercover to an Irvine pharmacy that filled most of the prescriptions.
The statewide database reports Pham wrote more than 52,000 opioid prescriptions in the three years leading to October 2017, which is almost 300 a week. The majority of people who saw Pham were in their 30’s and 40’s.
The charges filed by the affidavit described Pham’s text messages, including a chilling exchange concerning the shooter who committed the massacre last month at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks California.
The reports state Dr. Pham had texted someone in fear he had heard the gunman Ian Long had prescriptions that Pham had written for someone else. The text written by Pham said, “I never saw Mr. Long before so I don’t know the implication of this information.”
The unidentified person replied by saying, “If I give my meds to some crazy person its (sic) on me, not you, you have no control over what happened after a patient leaves your office,” assuring Pham he was in the clear.
Ian long committed suicide after shooting and killing 11 people and wounding a responding officer who died from an officer’s bullet during a shootout. Prosecutors announced they would not be releasing any further information regarding Long.
The criminal complaint argued Pham charged $100 to $150 per visit at his offices and deposited $6.7 million into his bank account between 2013 and September 2018. If found guilty of the charges, Pham could serve 40 years in prison and lose all medical licenses.