Wisconsin doctor will keep license even after paying $110,000 to the government.
Dr. David E. Eckerle, a Madison doctor who worked at Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin, is set to pay $110,000 to settle federal civil allegations that he wrote prescriptions for controlled substances with no legitimate medical purpose and were not issued in the usual course of professional practice, violating the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Despite the accusation of CSA violations, however, the physician has kept his medical license.
In other to determine whether the a substance should be a controlled substance, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) considers certain factors, including: (1) Its actual or relative potential for abuse; (2) Scientific evidence of its pharmacological effect, if known.; (3) The state of current scientific knowledge regarding the drug or other substance.; (4) Its history and current pattern of abuse.; (5) The scope, duration, and significance of abuse.; (6) What, if any, risk there is to the public health.; (7) Its psychic or physiological dependence liability; and (8) Whether the substance is an immediate precursor of a substance already controlled under this subchapter, according to its website.
In bringing forth the CSA, the goal of Congress has been to prevent the diversion of drugs from legitimate to illicit uses, specifically deterring from CSA violations such as “the illegal distribution, possession, dispensing, and improper use of controlled substance.” The problem has sparked an opioid epidemic in the U.S. and around the world. According to the government, “the CSA therefore regulates entities and practitioners that dispense controlled substances by establishing controls over all stages of the chain of distribution of controlled substances in the United States,” including at the physician level.
“Eckerle started at Group Health in 1994 and did not treat patients during the federal investigation and is no longer an employee,” according to spokesperson Al Wearing of Group Health, who added, “fully cooperated with the inquiry and takes opioid prescribing very seriously and has protocols in place to ensure safe prescribing.”
“The opioid epidemic has caused great harm and deep sadness to individuals, families, and communities here in Wisconsin. In cases unrelated to this matter, this office has seen opiate addictions that begin with a doctor over-prescribing opiate pain pills and that end with the former patient overdosing on heroin or going to prison for drug-related crimes. Wisconsin physicians who increase risks of opiate addiction by irresponsibly prescribing opioids will be held accountable,” said Acting United States Attorney Timothy M. O’Shea. “This office will investigate inappropriate opioid prescribing and use all available tools to combat the opioid epidemic and protect our local communities.”
“The harm caused by improperly prescribed narcotics is a serious threat to the health of our citizens,” Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Wisconsin Assistant Special Agent in Charge John McGarry added. “This investigation is indicative of DEA’s commitment to improve public safety by ensuring physicians issue prescriptions for legitimate medical purposes within the boundaries of federal law.”
Eckerle denies the allegations, and there has been no determination of liability. His state medical license remains active with no disciplinary action taken against it.