Psychiatrist guilty of prescribing thousands of pills to three sisters and their friends.
Richard Farmer, 83, a Tennessee psychiatrist who prescribed more than 1,200 pills to three sisters in three years was found guilty in federal court “distributing powerful opioid painkillers without a legitimate medical purpose,” according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice.
“Doctors who take advantage of patients suffering from addiction are no different than street corner drug dealers,” said Special Agent in Charge J. Todd Scott of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Louisville Division Office. “I am proud of the dedicated men and women of DEA who worked tirelessly to bring Dr. Farmer to justice.”
The verdict against Farmer is a first for the federal task force formed in 2018 to crack down on illegal opioid prescriptions in the region.
“The Department of Justice will not relent in its pursuit of those responsible for fueling the opioid epidemic in the Appalachian region,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Today’s verdict, which shows that our efforts are yielding tangible results, is a credit to the hard work of the Criminal Division’s ARPO Strike Force and our U.S. Attorney’s Office and law enforcement partners.”
The psychiatrist, who practiced in East Memphis, was arrested in 2019 as part of a raid by the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force, a multiagency effort that includes the Justice Department and Department of Health and Human Services. Along with Farmer, fourteen additional healthcare professionals in West Tennessee were charged for their alleged role in the opioid epidemic.
According to the original federal indictment, Farmer was accused of “exchanging prescriptions for drugs like oxycodone and alprazolam for sexual favors and the companionship of female patients.” Although, the jury ultimately did not find the doctor guilty of having sex with the three related patients. Other women had accused him, and the jury was deadlocked.
The DOJ says Farmer kept almost no patient files on the three women, however, and he also wrote opioid prescriptions for the women’s friends and neighbors without requiring any office visits. Furthermore, the agency claimed Farmer had “ongoing sexual contact with them during the time he was prescribing the opioids.” Prosecutors said, “Farmer did not keep patient files on the two sisters and their sister-in-law and ignored basic professional and ethical practices, like drug screening his patients before prescribing powerful opioids and ignoring signs of addiction.”
“The defense maintained throughout that these were patients at Dr. Farmer’s clinic. These patients presented with legitimate medical issues and it appears that the jury convicted on the theory that Dr. Farmer, a psychiatrist, was attempting to treat chronic pain in these particular patients,” defense attorney Charles Mitchell said. He added an appeal of the verdict will come after sentencing May 22.
“Opioid misuse and abuse is an insidious epidemic, created in large part by the over-prescribing and diversion of potent opioids,” said U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant of the Western District of Tennessee. “This guilty verdict demonstrates our resolve to aggressively prosecute medical personnel who misuse their positions of trust to exploit the very people coming to them for help.”