UPDATE: A Clifton orthopedic surgeon who prescribed addictive opioid painkillers to patients who abused, sold or otherwise didn't need them was permanently barred from practicing medicine or prescribing drugs in New Jersey, state authorities announced Monday.
Evangelos Megariotis – who owned and operated Clifton Orthopedic Associates -- told one patient that "anything that drugs can do on the street, my medications will do better and safer,” state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said.
"Just call me,” Grewal quoted him as saying.
Megariotis also treated patient complaints of hypertension, upper respiratory issues, ADD, PTS and other conditions with drugs -- among them, Xanax, Adderall, and cough syrup with codeine – without a complete history and physical exam or referrals to specialists, the attorney general said.
Megariotis – who is also facing federal charges -- "ran his practice for years with little or no concern for professional standards or the regulations in place to protect patients, including the restrictions on habit-forming prescription painkillers” Grewal said.
He also “turned a blind eye to signs that patients may have been abusing the [drugs] or diverting them for illegal purposes,” the attorney general said.
Megariotis entered into a consent order with the board to resolve allegations filed against him by Grewal's office in February 2018 for “professional misconduct and gross negligence” while treating nine patients between 2012 and 2017.
Megariotis still faces federal charges in connection with a massive Justice Department crackdown involving the distribution of over 3.25 million opioid doses in “pill mill” clinics and doctors’ offices throughout the Northeast.
Federal authorities charged 54 defendants – 15 of them doctors -- with participating in a combine $800 million in bogus health insurance claims. Some took guilty pleas in U.S. District Court, while others are awaiting trial, authorities said.
In the state case, Grewal said, Megariotis kept patients on pain pills for years without cause, failed to diagnose and/or treat their underlying conditions, improperly treated conditions outside his area of expertise instead of referring them to specialists and operated on them “without first establishing a legitimate medical need.”
The attorney general outlined several offenses, saying that Megariotis:
- Failed to conduct any routine urine or blood testing, and/or to conduct regular lookups on the NJ Prescription Monitoring Program to ensure patients’ proper use of drugs;
- Failed to acknowledge clear signs of potential drug abuse and/or drug diversion in patients;
- Discouraged one patient from using illegal narcotics by telling him “anything that drugs can do on the street, my medications will do better and safer” and to “just call me”;
- Treated patient complaints of hyper tension, upper respiratory issues, attention deficit disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, “car phobia,” and other conditions outside his area of expertise– often with CDS like Xanax, Adderall, and cough syrup with codeine – without a complete history and physical exam, and without referrals to specialists;
- Failed to conduct bloodwork or other tests on two patients to mitigate potential risks associated with long-term use of NSAIDS and Prednisone, even when one patient reported rectal bleeding and gastrointestinal problems;
- Conducted surgery on one patient’s knee, and another patient’s shoulder, despite a lack of diagnostic findings to support the medical necessity for the procedures;
- Prescribed addictive pain medication to patients for years without a pain management plan, as required, and continuing them on high dosages of the drugs even when patients reported no relief from pain.
“Doctors who demonstrate a lack of professional judgement and utter disregard for patient safety by indiscriminately prescribing addictive pain medicine pose a grave danger to their patients and the public at large,” Grewal said.
“We will not allow our battle against the deadly scourge of addiction to be undermined by rogue practitioners who think rules don’t apply to them,” he said.
Investigators with the Enforcement Bureau within the Division of Consumer Affairs conducted the investigation.
Deputy Attorney General Michael Antenucci of the Professional Boards Prosecution Section in the state Division of Law is representing the state in the case.
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