The United States has filed a civil complaint seeking to enjoin a Saipan physician from unlawfully dispensing opioids and other controlled substances. The press statement from the U.S. Department of Justice accused Dr. John L. Doyle of unlawfully issuing controlled substance prescriptions in violation of the Controlled Substances Act under Title 21 of the United States Code.
The complaint seeks civil penalties up to $67,627 for each of 73 alleged violations of the Controlled Substances Act, as well as an injunction against Doyle.
Lawyer Steve Pixley, who later issued a statement on the matter and is presumably representing Doyle, described the DOJ press release as “sensational,” saying it was “calculated to embarrass, defame, intimidate and improperly sway public opinion against a good physician who refused to capitulate to the demands of the federal government. Instead, he elected to stand up to the federal government and he is prepared to successfully defend these claims in a court of law.”
The statement from Pixley’s office said that Doyle has “worked tirelessly over the years to provide excellent medical services to his patients and the people of the Northern Mariana Islands. He has worked closely with our local government to protect our citizens against the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The evidence will show that the prescriptions in question were issued pursuant to a bona fide physician-patient relationship in the usual course of practice with a good faith belief that the prescriptions and his treatment plan served a legitimate medical purpose,” the statement adds.
The U.S. government’s complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands, alleges that Doyle issued multiple prescriptions for high quantities of a dangerous combination of drugs commonly known as the Holy Trinity—opioids, benzodiazepines, and muscle relaxants—as well as other controlled substances to the spouse of a colleague, frequently without examining the patient. He allegedly ignored obvious signs of addiction and physical and mental deterioration when issuing opioid prescriptions and other controlled substances to another patient. The complaint also alleges that Doyle’s actions contributed to a high risk of overdose or death in these patients, a risk that he knew or should have known because he had been previously disciplined by the Kentucky Medical Board for similar violations that were related to the overdose death of a patient.
“It is a sad reality that some medical practitioners are fueling drug addiction in the United States. All too often, the diversion of drugs for illegitimate use results in tragic consequences,” said U.S. Attorney Shawn N. Anderson. “The Department of Justice is fighting this epidemic in a variety of ways. As this case demonstrates, we can and will pursue civil litigation to cut off the flow of illicit prescriptions at the source. We look forward to proving our claims in court and holding Dr. Doyle accountable for his conduct.”
“Doctors have a trusted responsibility to properly and legally care for their patients and when individuals take actions to harm them, they will be held accountable,” said DEA assistant special agent in charge Leslie Tomaich. “We have no tolerance for medical professionals that violate their oath and illegally distribute prescription drugs that exacerbate the opioid epidemic.”
The complaint alleges that Doyle wrote prescriptions for potent and dangerous opioids that he knew or should have known were not issued for a legitimate medical reason and outside the usual course of professional practice. While several settlements have been reached with other physicians in this region pre-complaint, this lawsuit represents the first-ever
Controlled Substances Act civil suit against a physician in the history of the District of the Northern Mariana Islands.
The claims asserted against defendants in a civil suit are allegations only and are not determinations of liability.
The investigation is being conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Honolulu Diversion Group and Saipan Post of Duty. The case is being prosecuted by Mikel Schwab and Jessica F. Wessling, assistant U.S. attorneys for the Districts of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.