NEWARK – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the Division of Consumer Affairs today announced that the State Board of Medical Examiners (“the Board”) has permanently suspended the license of a Bergen County doctor for allegedly indiscriminately prescribing highly addictive opioid painkillers to patients for years, despite “clear signs” they were misusing the drugs or diverting them for illegal purposes.
Dr. Eric Thomas, 44, who practiced internal medicine in North Arlington, allegedly prescribed large amounts of Oxycodone, OxyContin, morphine, and other controlled dangerous substances (“CDS”) without a legitimate medical purpose to seven patients he treated between January 2012 and May 2015.
According to a Verified Complaint filed by the State, Thomas routinely turned a blind eye to “red flags” of drug abuse and diversion, such as when patients obtained multiple CDS prescriptions from different prescribers, or when their urine drug screens tested positive for illegal street drugs, negative for the opioids prescribed to them, and/or indicated that patients had submitted diluted urine samples in an apparent attempt to reduce the concentration of drug or drug metabolites in the sample.
To settle the allegations Thomas agreed to permanently surrender his medical license in a retirement to be deemed a permanent suspension.
“Doctors who provide easy and indiscriminate access to highly addictive opioid pain medications to individuals who have no medical need for them are no better than street corner heroin dealers and every bit as dangerous,” said Attorney General Grewal. “We will continue to weed these unscrupulous physicians from our medical profession as we advance our battle to break the stranglehold of addiction in New Jersey.”
The allegations against Thomas are based on medical records of seven patients he treated for various pain complaints between January 2012 and May 2015.
The State alleges that Thomas routinely prescribed painkillers and other CDS to treat patients’ pain complaints without performing physical exams or conducting diagnostic tests to determine the cause of their pain. He continued to prescribe CDS to patients for years without documenting treatment plans for pain management or opioid use, and without making reasonable efforts to prescribe alternative medications or treatments to alleviate pain or decrease the dosages of the controlled substances, according to the Complaint.
Thomas also failed to diagnose, treat, or refer patients to specialists for medical issues not related to their pain, including high blood pressure, diabetes and congestive heart failure.
“Dr. Thomas’ alleged negligent conduct stretched beyond his prescribing of CDS into the very basic fundamentals of his practice of internal medicine,” said Sharon M. Joyce, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “His alleged conduct, overall, demonstrates an appalling breach of professional standards and an inability to grasp the primary principles of medicine. By permanently suspending his license, the Board has taken appropriate action to protect the public from danger.”
According to the Complaint, in treating the seven patients Thomas engaged in gross negligence and professional misconduct that included:
The State filed its Verified Complaint against Thomas in October 2015; five months after an inspection of his patient records led the Board to temporarily suspend his NJ CDS Registration that had allowed him to prescribe narcotics and other controlled substances in this state. In November 2015 the Board temporarily suspended Thomas’ medical license, and he has remained under temporary suspension since then.
In a Consent Order with the Board that settles the case against him, Thomas agreed to permanently surrender his NJ CDS Registration and permanently retire his license to practice medicine and surgery in this state. Under the terms of the Order Thomas agreed not to reapply for a medical license or seek a CDS registration in New Jersey in the future.
Under the Order, Thomas 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 Attorney General Jillian Sauchelli, of the Professional Boards Prosecution Section in the Division of Law, represented the State in this matter.
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