RICHLAND, Wash. - A Richland doctor is accused of running a pill mill by prescribing opioids and other highly addictive medications to patients without seeing them.
Janet S. Arnold allegedly charged patients $20 for prescriptions without an appointment and $80 to $120 if they wanted to see her at Desert Wind Family Practice.
Agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration raided her office in May 2017.
Her medical license was suspended the following month and then, in March of this year, was revoked by the state as the federal criminal investigation into her practice was ongoing.
Arnold was recently indicted in U.S. District Court along with two female employees and a Prosser woman.
While Arnold was authorized to prescribe narcotics for legitimate medical purposes at her practice, she was not licensed by the state to operate as a pain management clinic, according to the 19-page indictment.
Arnold had been a doctor since 1988.
Her license was suspended from 2006 to late 2007, but she successfully applied for reinstatement. The Medical Quality Assurance Commission alleged at the time that her prescribing practices were putting patients “at an unreasonable risk of harm and/or has been non-therapeutic.”
Now, federal prosecutors claim the doctor would pre-sign blank prescriptions, sometimes while away from the office, and give the forms to her two employees, Danielle C. Mata and Jennifer C. Prichard.
Those women were not licensed care providers and had no training or legal authorization to prescribe medications. Yet, they would fill out the forms with drug type, dosage and quantity for customers or patients, the indictment states.
“Defendant Arnold would sometimes pre-sign blank prescriptions without even knowing the identities of the customer to whom the prescriptions would be issued or the nature or dosage of the drug to be prescribed,” it says.
Lisa M. Cooper, the fourth defendant, allegedly used other people to obtain and fill prescriptions pre-signed by Arnold.
The controlled substances included opioids — or pain relievers — like Fentanyl, oxycodone, methadone and Dilaudid.
Arnold also allegedly prescribed stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall, muscle relaxers and sedatives or anti-anxiety medications like Xanax.
The indictment says that a doctor must first determine that a prescription for a controlled substance is for a legitimate medical purpose, then sign the prescription only after reviewing it for accuracy.
Refills on certain potent narcotics is prohibited.
However, doctors can get around that by issuing multiple prescriptions authorizing a patient to receive a maximum 90-day supply. Doctors must make sure giving multiple prescriptions to the patient doesn’t “create an undue risk of diversion or abuse,” the indictment says.
Arnold allegedly prescribed highly addictive medications when lesser treatment options were available, failed to monitor patients’ responses to the medication and increased dosages and strengths without justification.
One patient reportedly received seven prescriptions for oxycodone over 18 months — at one point receiving 240 pills and 150 pills on two other occasions.
The indictment also lists other patients, with one person getting 360 oxycodone pills in June 2016 and many others regularly receiving 15 patches of Fentanyl.
Arnold was indicted on 65 total counts for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, and attempted distribution and distribution for controlled substances.
Mata was a receptionist and office manager at Desert Wind from early 2016 until May 2017, when Arnold’s medical license was suspended.
Prichard was hired to work at the practice in November 2016.
Mata, Prichard and Cooper each have the same 65 counts as Arnold.
The indictment also says that a person, only identified as T.N., worked for Arnold as a receptionist in early 2016 and had no known medical background.
T.N. is not charged in this case.
All four women have trials set for March 11 at the Richland Federal Building.
One defense attorney, in asking for the long delay until trial, said prosecutors have turned over 27,464 pages of reports from the criminal investigation.
The case has been assigned to Senior Judge Ed Shea.