Physician pleads guilty in opioid over-prescribing case.
Dr. Morris Brown, 75, who practiced in Dayton, Ohio, has pleaded guilty to illegally distributing opioid prescriptions. Dayton has been one of the hard-hit areas in the country, and federal authorities called Brown one of the highest prescribers, running a ‘pill mill’ in the heart of it.
Brown admitted to “writing prescriptions for patients in amounts and for lengths of time that were outside the scope of legitimate medical practice,” according to the U.S Department of Justice. Brown continued prescribing opioids “even after learning that some of his patients had experienced overdoses, and in some cases, deaths,” read a federal indictment. The doctor is scheduled to be sentenced May 8.
The owner and operator of Dayton Primary and Urgent Care Center Inc. at 301 W. First St. in Dayton, Brown was one of sixty people charged in April 2019 in the largest prescription opioid crackdown in U.S. history. He owned the building and leased space to the onsite Dayton Pharmacy.
The Justice Department said, “Brown operated a pill mill, funneling prescriptions to the pharmacy, which dispensed over 1.75 million pills during a two-year period.” The agency’s news release indicated the physician admitted to “distributing approximately 73.5 kilograms of opioids by converted drug weight.”
Four other men connected with the pharmacy were also charged as a result of the sting: Ismail Abuhanieh, 50, of Phoenix, Arizona; Mahmoud Elmiari, 44, of Bellbrook; Yohannes Tinsae, 48, of Beavercreek; and Mahmoud Rifai, 50, of Detroit, Michigan. All faced charges related to their consent to obtain controlled substances by fraud or misrepresentation. Elmiari and Tinsae have entered guilty pleas and will also be sentenced in May. Abuhanieh is scheduled for a change of plea on March 10. Rifai is the subject of an active arrest warrant. Abuhanieh, Rifai and Tinsae were licensed pharmacists associated with Dayton Pharmacy, and Elmiari was the manager. Most of the others who face charges in the investigation are medical personnel involved with the site in some way.
Brown’s medical license was permanently surrendered in 2018, and the Justice Department believes in the two-year span between October 2015 and October 2017, 1.75 million pills were issued, including highly addictive medications such as oxycodone, methadone, morphine, fentanyl, alprazolam, and endocet. In the four-year period between 2013 to 2017, Brown was paid more than $250,000 by pharmaceutical companies for consulting services and lectures, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services doctor payment data. Brown “continued prescribing opioids even after learning that some of his patients had experienced overdoses, and in some cases, deaths,” the indictment read.
“That doctor allegedly operated a pill mill and funneled prescriptions to the pharmacy housed in his waiting room, which dispensed over 1.75 million pills in a two-year period,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney General Brian Benczkowski. “This doctor has been charged with, among other things, unlawfully dispensing controlled substances including prescription opioids.” He added, “Every day that these so-called ‘medical professionals’ have a pen and prescription pad in their hands is another day that they’re making people sick and contributing to a lot of misery in these communities.”