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NEWARK – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today announced that the State Board of Medical Examiners (“the Board”) has permanently revoked the license of a Passaic County orthopedic surgeon who allegedly prescribed high dosages of addictive opioid painkillers to his patients for years without a legitimate medical purpose, often while turning a blind eye to signs that patients may have been abusing the controlled dangerous substances (“CDS”) or diverting them for illegal purposes.
Dr. Evangelos Megariotis, who owned and ran Clifton Orthopedic Associates, P.A., is permanently barred from practicing medicine under a Consent Order filed by the Board. The Order also permanently revokes Megariotis’ NJ CDS registration, which allowed him to prescribe controlled dangerous substances in New Jersey. He is facing federal criminal charges in connection with his prescribing of CDS.
“Doctors who demonstrate a lack of professional judgement and utter disregard for patient safety by indiscriminately prescribing addictive pain medicine pose a grave danger to their patients and the public at large,” said Attorney General Grewal. “We will not tolerate this behavior from our licensed professionals.”
Megariotis entered the Consent Order in order to resolve allegations contained in a Complaint filed with the Board by Attorney General Grewal in February 2018. The Complaint alleged that Megariotis engaged in professional misconduct and gross negligence while treating nine patients between 2012 and 2017, including by keeping patients on pain pills for years without cause; failing to diagnose and/or treat patients’ underlying conditions; improperly treating conditions outside his area of expertise without referring patients to specialists; and performing surgeries without first establishing a legitimate medical need.
“Most physicians understand the importance of following the rules for safely prescribing CDS, but this one clearly didn’t,” said Sharon M. Joyce, Director of the Office of the New Jersey Coordinator for Addiction Responses and Enforcement Strategies (“NJ CARES”). “We will not let problem prescribers undermine the efforts of the majority of physicians doing all they can to help bring an end to the opioid epidemic in our state.”
Among the allegations contained in the 2018 Complaint was that Megariotis endangered his patients’ life, health, welfare, or safety by:
- Failing to conduct any routine urine or blood testing, and/or to conduct regular lookups on the NJ Prescription Monitoring Program to ensure patients’ proper use of CDS, as required;
- Failing to acknowledge clear signs of potential drug abuse and/or drug diversion in patients;
- Discouraging one patient from using illegal narcotics by telling him “anything that drugs can do on the street, my medications will do better and safer” and to “just call me”;
- Treating patient complaints of hypertension, upper respiratory issues, attention deficit disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, “car phobia,” and other conditions outside his area of expertise– often with CDS like Xanax, Adderall, and cough syrup with codeine – without a complete history and physical exam, and without referrals to specialists;
- Failing to conduct bloodwork or other tests on three patients to mitigate potential risks associated with long-term use of NSAIDS and Prednisone, even when those patients reported symptoms of gastrointestinal distress;
- Performing surgery on one patient’s knee, and another patient’s shoulder, despite a lack of diagnostic findings to support the medical necessity for the procedures; and
- Prescribing addictive pain medication to patients for years without a pain management plan, as required, and continuing them on high dosages of the drugs even when patients reported no relief from pain.
Megariotis closed his practice on December 31, 2018, and has not engaged in the practice of medicine since.
An administrative law judge heard Megariotis’ case over the course of ten days between January and May of 2019. During the hearing, Megariotis testified on his own behalf and denied the allegations against him. But before the judge rendered a decision, Megariotis, without making any admissions and continuing to deny the Complaint’s allegations, agreed to voluntarily retire from practice, with his retirement to be deemed a permanent revocation by the Board without the opportunity to reapply for a license in New Jersey.
“Megariotis’ permanent removal from practice is more than warranted,” said Kaitlin A. Caruso, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “To protect the public, we will continue to investigate allegations of indiscriminate prescribing and take action against those who engage in it.”
In addition to permanently revoking Megariotis’ license, the Consent Order requires that he pay $48,000 in costs. He also must divest himself from any current and future financial interest in, or benefit derived from, the practice of medicine, and is precluded from managing, supervising, or overseeing the practice of medicine or the provision of healthcare in New Jersey.
Investigators with the Enforcement Bureau within the Division of Consumer Affairs conducted the investigation.
Deputy Attorneys General Michael Antenucci and Michelle Mikelberg, of the Professional Boards Prosecution Section within the Division of Law’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement Practice Group, represented the State in this matter.
Patients who believe that they have been treated by a licensed health care professional in an inappropriate manner can file an online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.