Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Parade of the Pill-Pushers

While two former pill-mill doctors were being sentenced to prison in a federal courtroom in West Palm Beach on Friday, nine luckier doctors accused of over-prescribing narcotics drew less-stiff punishment from the  Florida Board of Medicine at a hotel nearby.

The two who were sentenced to prison are Cynthia Cadet, 43, and Joseph Castronuovo, 74. At trial last year, the jury acquitted themof responsibility for the overdose deaths of eight patients, but found them guilty of money-laundering, according to the Palm Beach Post.

On the money-laundering charges, as the Associated Pressreported Friday, Cadet was sentenced to more than six years in prison; Castronuovo drew 18 months. Their attorneys said they'll appeal. The two were the only doctors among the 30 arrested who refused to accept a plea-bargain for shorter sentences.

Meanwhile, a loophole that has allowed many drug clinics to fly under the radar could get closed by a bill due for a vote in the State House this week. The clinics escaped rules on licensing and inspection by turning down insurance, accepting only cash. The Associated Pressdescribes how cash-only clinics owned by investors hire doctors from Craigslist to do the prescribing.

Back at a hotel in Deerfield Beach on Friday, nine doctors accused of over-prescribing addictive drugs in cases stretching back as much as seven years dominated the agenda of the Board of Medicine. Most of them brought lawyers who argued their clients were only trying to help patients in pain - the same argument that didn't work in federal court.

Two doctors – John Poser of Gainesville and William Crumbley of Tampa – are unlikely ever to practice medicine again. Poser voluntarily turned in his license rather than fight the complaint, and Crumbley didn’t respond when he was notified of the charges. The board revoked Crumbley’s license.

The board accepted a settlement that called for suspension of Dr. Norman Wasserman of Hollywood until an independent evaluation team finds he is safe to practice. Two others, Drs. Brenton Thrasher of Lake Worth and Bartly Allen Storey of Tampa, had signed agreements with discipline short of suspension, but the board turned those down.

For both, the board counter-offered with a suspension until found safe to practice.  Thrasher and Storey have the right to request a full evidentiary hearing in front of an administrative law judge, but both said they don't plan to return to practice. Storey said he is writing a non-fiction book on the concept of time.

Three doctors were offered settlements that include a reprimand and fine: Nathan Perry Jr. of Jacksonville, Gilbert Shapiro of Key West and Richard Michael Smith of Tampa.

Wasserman, Storey and Smith were charged in cases that involved a patient's overdose death.

Dr. Jeffrey P. Wallace of Boca Raton was the only one charged with an inappropriate prescribing offense. He was able to leave with a settlement so minor it does not trigger a report to the National Physician Data Bank, an electronic database that hospitals and health plans check before allowing a physician to affiliate. Wallace settled for a “letter of concern.”

All except the two who forfeited their licenses will pay fines. According to records, Wasserman faces the highest fine, at $75,000, and Storey is second, at $50,000.

Records show the Tampa Bay doctors who got into trouble all practiced at either Doctors Rx Us (now Pain Medical Group) on East Busch Boulevard in Tampa or at Goodwillus Pain Management Clinic in Hudson, or both.

Carol Gentry, founder and special correspondent of Health News Florida, has four decades of experience covering health finance and policy, with an emphasis on consumer education and protection.