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84-Year-Old Shrink Deals Oxy to DEA

Octogenarian New Jersey psychiatrist not old enough to know better than to hand out handfuls of oxy—again.

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Ilem: Hiding behind her qualifications? Photo via

By Kenneth Garger

08/18/11

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An 84-year-old psychiatrist from Wayne, New Jersey, Dr. Priscilla G. Ilem, was charged Tuesday with “distributing a controlled dangerous substance beyond the bounds of a medical process.” Ilem, who practiced psychiatry part-time from her home, had bail set at a whopping $1 million—and the Philippines citizen was ordered to surrender her passport on her release. After the parents of her younger patients tipped off police in June, the DEA led a sting operation. Ilem was caught dishing out oxycodone to undercover DEA operatives, acting as patients, during visits involving "no physical examination or testing whatsoever, and for which Ilem charged a cash fee of $200," said the charge. Her attorney, Paul B. Brickfield, praised her "distinguished record.” Indeed, her 40-year career has worryingly included medical service with an Army Reserve unit, psychiatric evaluations of children under the command of the Supreme Court—and previous illegal pill-pushing, caught by an earlier DEA probe in 2001. Still, she's not alone. National Institute on Drug Abuse researchers recently analyzed records of 79.5 million prescriptions filled in 2009—almost 40% of the total US opioid scrips for that year. They found that 56% of patients receiving pain medication prescriptions had already got one within the past month. Meanwhile, a UK survey asked doctors: Are you aware of prescribing to people who you believe may be addicted to prescription drugs? Incredibly, 80% said yes—but just 52.7% said they were concerned about the issue. Dr. Ilem's bail conditions stop her writing scrips for now. But that's not to say she won't be at it again in her 90s. After all, she mounted a comeback after her 2001 suspension. And in 2005, the state Attorney General’s office complained to the state Board of Medical Examiners that she was illegally passing out scrips again—then in 2007, even after evidence showed she had falsified patient records, charges were dropped because none of the patients were harmed. However, she could now receive up to 20 years in prison—which would make her 104 next time around.

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