Sarasota, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) – Around 2.7 million adults aged 55 or older are planning an earlier retirement due to the pandemic according to a Bloomberg report early last year. In England, at least 23 percent of General Practitioners are expected to retire early, and that number has tripled since 2008. According to a report from the Association Of American Medical Colleges, more than two in five physicians will be 65 or older within the next decade, leading in part to a massive shortage of providers from retirement.
While the trend for physicians may be early retirement, another trend seems to be evolving – retirement aged practitioners brought up on drug and fraud charges.
The Justice Department in New Jersey issued a news release earlier this week of yet another physician in their 60’s charged with unlawful distribution of a controlled substance. Sixty-eight year old orthopedic surgeon Evangelos Megariotis, MD has been charged with 34 counts of illegally prescribing narcotics.
Megariotis owned and operated Clifton Orthopedic Associates in New Jersey. According to an Orthopedics This Week report, earlier this year Megariotis agreed to a settlement for allegations of professional misconduct and gross negligence. The complaint claimed that Megariotis kept 9 patients on pain medication from 2012 to 2017 without cause, and without proper diagnosis and treatment of underlying conditions. Additionally, the complaint asserts that the physician improperly treated conditions outside of his scope of practice and performed surgeries without medical necessity. In settlement, Megariotis turned in his license and paid $48,000 in costs.
In the most recent charges announced this month, Megariotis allegedly prescribed narcotics including oxycodone, alprazolam (or “Xanax”), cough syrup with codeine and other stimulants outside his scope of expertise and without medical necessity from 2016 to 2018.
If found guilty, Megariotis could be facing a maximum of 20 years prison time, and $1 million in fines for the prescription of Schedule II opioids. For the prescription of the Schedule IV medications such as alprazolam, the physician could face 5 years prison time, and a $250,000 fine. The Schedule V prescriptions, which include the cough syrup with codeine, could garner a 1 year sentence and a $100,000 fine.
If convicted, it’s certainly not the retirement a physician would hope for. Yet, one has to wonder what would lead a physician to risk their entire life’s work, especially in their “golden years.”