Authorities indicted a Philadelphia doctor yesterday on the charge of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. Dr. William J. O’Brien III, 49, allegedly ran “pill mills” out of his offices on the 9800 block of Bustleton Avenue in Philadelphia and on Rolling Lane in Levittown, Bucks County. The physician charged patients hundreds of dollars in cash for appointments and refills on prescription narcotics, and he distributed these prescriptions without conducting medical exams, ABC News reported.
With prescription painkiller abuse and overdoses a raging public health crisis that kills well over 10,000 people each year, there’s absolutely no room for pill mills in the offices of our trusted doctors. Pennsylvania physicians over-prescribing painkillers or selling them in pill mills can only lead to tragedy.
Powerful opioid painkiller oxycodone and benzodiazepine anti-anxiety drug Xanax were the two medications named in the charges. Both are controlled substances. Photo Credit: Corbis Images.
The Charges against Dr. O’Brien
In addition to the charge of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances – which his receptionist, 29-year-old Angela Rongione, has also been charged with – Dr. O’Brien faces 26 counts of “illegally distributing oxycodone and Xanax outside the usual course of professional practice and for no legitimate medical purpose,” according to ABC News. Reports alleged that O’Brien falsified patient records to show that a medical examination had taken place, even though no such exam actually happened. Patients paid $250 in cash for their first appointment and prescription and another $200 for each appointment to get a refill, according to ABC News. By the end of 2014, federal authorities believed the pill mill had brought in nearly $1,800,000.
The charges against Dr. O’Brien are serious. If convicted of conspiracy, he could spend 20 years in prison, ABC News reported. Each count of illegally distributing the medication could carry a five-year sentence plus fines.
Local License Suspensions and Criminal Charges
Dr. O’Brien isn’t the first local physician to get in trouble for his painkiller prescribing practices in recent years. Last July, the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners suspended the license of Merchantville family doctor Adam C. Gilliss for painkiller prescribing practices that “would present clear and imminent danger to public health, safety and welfare.”
Some dangerous doctors prescribe narcotic painkillers inappropriately for years before a government agency steps in – like the Philadelphia physician whose over-prescribing practices caused the deaths of three of our clients. As we represented the families of these deceased patients, we got the FBI involved and got this particular doctor’s license suspended. We knew it was the only way to protect the rest of the physician’s patients from meeting the same fate as our clients who had lost their lives.
Doctors know that controlled substances are controlled for a reason – because they’re dangerous. If physicians don’t take appropriate measures when prescribing these drugs, their patients can develop dependence and addictions. They can overdose, even while taking the medications as directed, if their doctors fail to choose the right dosage. When physicians engage in potentially dangerous prescribing practices, as Dr. O’Brien is alleged to have done, the legal system is there to stop them. Criminal charges like these and civil lawsuits like the ones we’ve filed on behalf of our clients’ families can keep reckless doctors from continuing to endanger patients’ lives.