Doctor allegedly prescribed powerful narcotics to drug seekers

Posted: Thursday, November 01, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A doctor who claimed to be an addiction specialist not only bilked Medicaid for over $240,000, but wrote prescriptions for powerful narcotics that he knew were being sold on the street, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

Dr. Jeffrey Gottlieb is charged with overbilling Medicaid, writing prescriptions where there was no medical need and lying to the state to get an Alaska medical license.

Prosecutors say Gottlieb prescribed narcotics from his Anchorage apartment, where he also smoked marijuana and drank with drug-seeking patients.

''He had no signs, no employees,'' Assistant Attorney General Steve Branchflower said Wednesday before the jury began deliberating.

Gottlieb, 50, is accused of writing more than 200 prescriptions for what Branchflower described as ''very addictive drugs,'' including OxyContin, which has been connected to more than 100 overdoses nationwide, and Dilaudid, a derivative of morphine.

Branchflower said Gottlieb prescribed Marinol, a drug with the same active ingredient as marijuana, for his girlfriend. He also allegedly wrote himself prescriptions for injectible Valium.

Gottlieb even delivered drugs to his patients' homes, Branchflower said.

''He knew they were out for one thing -- drugs,'' he said. ''They were happy to have found a willing doctor.''

Former patients testified that Gottlieb often seemed confused about what he had previously prescribed for them. One woman who suffered from migraine headaches testified that when she decided not to have Gottlieb as her doctor, he said, ''Stay, stay. I can get you anything you want.''

In 1998, Gottlieb over a one-month period wrote 15 prescriptions for one patient who was caught selling drugs to an undercover police officer, Branchflower said.

''This guy had tons of drugs prescribed for him,'' he said.

Gottlieb billed Medicaid for consultations that should have been billed as simple office visits, Branchflower said. He even billed Medicaid for a consultation he had with himself, he said.

Branchflower, who is head of the state medical fraud office, criticized the state medical board for failing to check Gottlieb's credentials when he applied for an Alaska medical license in 1992.

Gottlieb was educated at medical schools in Mexico and the Caribbean but failed to complete a one-year postgraduate program to get a medical license, Branchflower said.

''If the medical board had just asked a couple of questions, they would know what we know now,'' he said.

Branchflower asserts that Gottlieb falsified letters to give the impression he'd completed the program at Monsour Medical Center in Jeannette, Pa.

Defense lawyer Allen Dayan said there is no proof that Gottlieb's prescriptions were not medically necessary. Just because his patients may be drug seekers, does not mean they are not in real pain, he said.

''He deals with the underbelly of our society. People with desperate problems real or imagined ... but with real physical problems,'' Dayan said.

He said prosecutors failed to prove Gottlieb did not successfully complete the postgraduate work and encouraged jurors to look closely at letters indicating that he did.

As far as the overbilling, Gottlieb was ignorant of when it was proper to bill for a consultation because he attended ''offshore medical schools,'' Dayan said.

''He just wasn't trained,'' he said.

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