LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Your doctor could be in danger of losing their medical license and you'd never know it. What may be most surprising about doctors in trouble is that they often get to keep their licenses because in Kentucky they're not required to tell you. I talked to the head of a Louisville group that helps doctors with addiction get their careers back.
Dr. Subramanya Prasad is an internal medicine specialist. In 2006, Prasad was arrested at the famed Cleveland Clinic and pled guilty after federal agents caught him selling prescriptions over the internet.
Sometimes, Prasad would sell more than 1,000 orders a day. His haul - more than $95,000 in just four months. We discovered Prasad was once again treating patients in northern Kentucky.
A man who answered the office door told an undercover reporter, "He (Prasad) was working like a half-day at that office and a half-day at the urgent care in northern Kentucky. The man told the undercover reporter that was a temporary situation and said, "eventually he'll be all-day here every day."
Prasad, who also practices in Cincinnati, told the State Medical Board of Ohio he had been fooled into the internet prescription scheme by an ad in the "New England Journal of Medicine" and referred to himself as "extremely naive and stupid." Prasad also pointed out that he voluntarily gave the $95,000 in online prescription earnings to the feds, became a government witness and testified for the prosecution.
After a heated debate in April 2011, the State Medical Board of Ohio agreed to let him practice again. It was a decision the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure had already made.
"So at all costs, whatever decision we make it's to protect the public," said Aaron Haslam, executive director of the State Medical Board of Ohio. "But then you also weigh how do we protect the public but also at the same time that we're not putting another individual potentially into poverty or not making this person a meaningful part of society or a contributing part of society."
Of course, most doctors aren't selling illegal prescriptions. What we did find while going over several years' worth of disciplinary actions taken against doctors is that dozens have addiction problems.
"The truth of the matter is, I was one myself many years ago," said Dr. Greg Jones, an addiction specialist, "and the Kentucky Health Physicians Foundation helped me a great deal."
Dr. Jones runs the Kentucky Health Physicians Foundation in Louisville. Doctors with addiction problems who run into trouble with the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure have to seek help through the foundation if they ever want to practice medicine again.
Sometimes when people find out Dr. Jones gives the OK for doctors to go back to work after treatment they get angry and let him know it.
"They say, ‘why would you even do that?'" said Jones. "Well, the only thing I can say I'm a physician first and foremost. It's a disease. Physicians receive an intensity of treatment for addiction that no other profession, outside of airline pilots, receive. And as a result of that intensity and the length of time that they get treated, our success rates are much higher than the general population."
Yet many patients won't ever know their doctor's been in trouble because Kentucky doesn't require a physician to notify patients that they're on probation. Hospitals and, many times, the media are told, though.
"We notify peers, as well, other physicians, through what we call our e-blast and e-mails to our licensees," said Haslam.
Hopefully your doctor would be as upfront as Dr. Jones, who battled an addiction to alcohol and has been sober for 17 1/2 years.
"I will tell you that many physicians in recovery like myself do make sure that people know who and what we are and what we do to take care of ourselves," said Dr. Jones. "Sometimes that's received very well and favorably. And sometimes it causes people to change their decisions. And I'm ok with that."
Dr. Jones said research shows doctors are no more likely to have addition problems than everyone else, although their addictions do garner more attention because of what they do.
If you'd like to know if your doctor has ever been disciplined in your state, just Google him or her. We found that a lot of the information about what they're accused of doing, come up when you search their names.
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