Top Pain Pill Prescriber in Pennsylvania Lands in Prison

November 11, 2013

Van Edward Scott, MD, a physician in New Castle, Pennsylvania, once prescribed more pain medication than anyone else in his state.

It turned out to be a dubious honor.

On October 29, a state judge sentenced the 62-year-old Dr. Scott to at least 9.5 years in prison for illegally prescribing pain medications to known addicts as well as other patients who resold the pills on the street. Sometimes they peddled them right outside Dr. Scott's office, according to prosecutors.

Dr. Scott claimed that as a pain management specialist, he was providing "appropriate and compassionate care." But a jury thought otherwise earlier this year: It found Dr. Scott guilty of these charges as well as related ones such as tampering with or fabricating physical evidence. The conviction came after police in April 2010 arrested Dr. Scott and a number of patients, some of whom had sold prescribed pain medications to undercover agents.

A grand jury in 2010 reported that in a single 12-month stretch, Dr. Scott wrote prescriptions for 2.2 million doses of oxycodone, methadone, fentanyl, and other schedule 2 controlled substances. This volume was 60% more than that for second-highest prescriber of such drugs in Pennsylvania and had a street value estimated to be at least $50 million.

Dr. Scott spent only a few minutes with each patient, taking no vital signs, according to the grand jury report. "There was very little, if any, physical exam."

He did not accept insurance payments, only cash, checks, or money orders from patients, the grand jury said. His estimated annual revenue was almost $800,000.

At the trial, Dr. Scott's attorney J.J. Sandlin portrayed his client as a physician who prescribed pain medication in good faith within the standard of medical care. Dr. Scott made the same defense when he faced disciplinary action by the State Medical Board of Ohio, which revoked his license to practice there after he had surrendered his Pennsylvania medical license in May 2010.

In an affidavit to the Ohio board, Dr. Scott said he was facing "onerous and oppressive prosecution" by Pennsylvania because he believed his patients and tried to relieve their suffering, caused by "verified and documented chronic pain."

"The 10 million undertreated pain patients in the United States are deserving of appropriate and compassionate care in conformity with the science of present pain-management practices," Dr. Scott said.

The physician received prison sentences of various lengths for 10 of the 14 charges for which he was found guilty. Because the sentences are formulated as ranges of months or years, they add up to a minimum of 9.5 years and a maximum of 19 years.


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