Dr. Sean Ponce is barred from prescribing controlled substances.
Sean Ponce , a Utah medical doctor, has been permanently banned from issuing opioid and other controlled substance prescriptions. U.S. District Judge David Barlow, appointed by former President Donald Trump, issued the decision in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah. The Department of Justice (DOJ) had alleged that Dr. Ponce “unlawfully issued controlled substance prescriptions in violation of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).” Furthermore, “Dr. Ponce catered to customer requests for opioids and other controlled substances, at times using text messages to arrange the exchange of prescriptions for cash.”
The Utah medical doctor maintained a virtual office space to meet with cash-paying clients in an attempt to keep up appearances that she was running a legitimate clinic even though she failed to perform routine examinations and there was no medical reason for issuing controlled substances to these patients.
“Doctors who facilitate the illegal diversion of opioids and other controlled substances harm the public and violate the law,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The Department of Justice will continue working with its partners to stop medical professionals who seek to profit from the opioid addiction epidemic.”
“In the District of Utah, we will enforce the provisions of the Controlled Substances Act,” said U.S. Attorney Trina A. Higgins for the District of Utah. “This includes violations of the Act committed by doctors and healthcare professionals who unlawfully distribute controlled substances under the guise of legitimate medical practice.”
As part of a consent order, the Utah medical doctor is set to pay a $65,000 civil penalty. In addition to being permanently barred from issuing controlled substance prescriptions, she has also been banned from “managing or supervising other medical providers who work with or prescribe opioids or controlled substances,” court records show.
“We entrust healthcare professionals to act in the community’s best interest,” said Special Agent in Charge Brian Besser of the DEA Rocky Mountain Division. “With that trust, the DEA expects practitioners to prescribe controlled substances in accordance with the laws and regulations set forth by legislation. When public trust is broken and healthcare providers seek to benefit from those that are at risk, they will most certainly be held accountable. I commend our Salt Lake City agents and our partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah and the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch for judiciously building this case and seeing it through.”
Federal government data shows that opioid overdoses have resulted in close to “650,000 overdose deaths since 1999, “a number that is only anticipated to grow. Overdoses involving opioids, both legal and illegal, skyrocketed during the height of the pandemic, increasing “38% in 2020 over the previous year and another 15% in 2021,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A congressional report released in October 2022 stated that the economic toll of the crisis in 2020 alone at “$1.5 trillion.”
Doctors who issued illegitimate prescriptions only help to fuel the already crippling crisis.