Two Gulf Coast physicians lost their medical licenses Friday on similar charges, prescribing large quantities of addictive pain pills in ways the state said endangered the public.
One of them, Dr. Konstantine Yankopolus of Fort Myers, had already been suspended from practice in an emergency order filed by the Florida Department of Health in May 2013.
However, the other physician whose license was revoked, Dr. Carlos Ganuza of New Port Richey, was still in practice with a clear and active license, according to records submitted for Friday's Florida Board of Medicine meeting in Deerfield Beach.
The administrative complaint in his case contained 16 counts, including substandard care to five unidentified patients, over-prescribing of narcotics, inadequate records and "a pattern of practice ...which demonstrates a lack of reasonable skill and safety to patients."
Ganuza did not attend Friday's meeting of the Board of Medicine or send an attorney to represent him. In fact, DOH records say Ganuza was served with the complaint but never responded to it. Prosecutors said that means he waives his right to a defense.
Health News Florida phoned Ganuza's clinic on Friday afternoon after the board quickly and unanimously revoked his license. His assistant said that while Ganuza was there, he was in a meeting and couldn't come to the phone.
By contrast, Yankopolus came to Friday's meeting of the Board of Medicine in Deerfield Beach with an attorney and armed with letters from colleagues and friends attesting to his skill as a doctor, in the past as an OB-GYN and more recently in primary care.
Dr. Ronald Gardner, a Fort Myers orthopedist, wrote that he has known "Konnie" Yankopolus for 24 years, working with him both as a colleague and on charitable projects. His medical treatment is good and his patients love him, Gardner said.
Primary care physician Alan Tannenbaum said he has known Yankopolus 19 years as a colleague at Cape Coral and Southwest Florida Regional hospitals and said he had no issues with his care.
"I believe Dr. Yankopolus has a caring heart and still can be a provider of quality care to the people of Florida," Tannenbaum wrote.
The DOH charged Yankopolus with nine counts of wrongdoing. Eight of them concerned practicing below the standard of care for four patients, and failing to keep good medical records in those cases. The ninth count involved breaking an emergency restriction on his license that DOH issued in 2012 barring him from being involved in unapproved stem-cell treatments or referring patients for that purpose.
The order was issued after Yankopolus became involved in a notorious case, assisting Dr. Zannos Grekos of Bonita Springs in an unapproved stem-cell treatment in which the patient died. Yankopolus had an opportunity to settle that case with a fine and probation, as the Naples Daily News reported at the time, but rejected it.
The DOH said Yankopolus referred a patient for the stem-cell procedure shortly after the order was issued, thereby violating it.
As for the prescribing counts, an investigative report said Yankopolus was serving as the physician for Renaissance Wellness, a licensed pain clinic in Fort Myers, in December 2012 when it failed a routine inspection. It failed the follow-up inspection in February 2013, DOH said.
Board members said the pattern of prescribing at the clinic looked like a classic pill mill, but Yankopolus denied that. "I did no harm to any patients," he said.
Dr. George Thomas, medical board member, said the letters supporting Yankopolus were nice, but the reality wasn't pretty. "This is the most egregious case I have seen," he said.