Doctor Accused Of Prescribing Pills Linked To Overdose Deaths

By Kelly Burch 12/21/18

The doctor's prescription writing was allegedly so extreme that a local CVS stopped accepting prescriptions he wrote. 

doctor who was accused of prescribing pills linked to overdose deaths

There’s a lot of attention on the so-called “third wave” of the opioid epidemic, synthetic opioids, but the arrest of a California doctor this week for allegedly illegally distributing prescription pills shows that medications are still a dangerous part of the epidemic.

Orange County doctor Dzung Ahn Pham, 57, who owns Irvine Village Urgent Care was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly providing prescriptions to patients whom he never actually examined, according to a press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

He is facing two charges of illegally distributing oxycodone. At least five people who reportedly received medications from Pham overdosed, and another man who was allegedly using pills from Pham was involved in a fatal car accident.  

“This case clearly and tragically illustrates the dangers of drug dealers armed with prescription pads,” United States Attorney Nick Hanna said in the press release. “This doctor is accused of flooding Southern California with huge quantities of opioids and other dangerous narcotics by writing prescriptions for drugs he knew would be diverted to the street. Prosecutors in my office, working with their law enforcement partners, will tirelessly pursue everyone involved in the trafficking of opioids as part of our persistent and ongoing efforts to stop the trail of misery that follows these dangerous drugs.”

Pham’s prescription writing was allegedly so extreme that a local CVS stopped accepting prescriptions he wrote. 

According to an affidavit, Pham provided medications including Adderall, oxycodone, tramadol, sSuboxone, norco, soma, alprazolam, and hydrocodone bitartrate-acetaminophen to patients who requested them via text message. At least 84 patients had prescriptions within a day or two after sending texts. 

Last summer, undercover agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration also reportedly received pills from Pham, including a “Holy Trinity, [which] is the combined use of an opioid (such as hydrocodone), a benzodiazepine (such as Valium), and carisoprodol (a muscle relaxer like Soma),” according to the press release. The doctor then reportedly sent the undercover agent to a specific pharmacy that still accepted his prescriptions. 

The pill mill operation was reportedly lucrative for Pham, who is believed to have deposited more than $5 million into personal accounts over the past five years. He also reportedly deposited $1.7 million into a business account. Investigators say he was charging $100-$150 per visit; it’s not clear how patients who requested prescriptions via text were charged. 

William D. Bodner, DEA Los Angeles Associate Special Agent in Charge, said that targeting doctors who write prescriptions irresponsibly is a priority. 

“This arrest should serve as a warning to any physician who utilizes their position to traffic opioids,” he said.

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.