(RNN) - Dr. Mahmood Ahmad climbed into the pocketbook of an opioid drug maker and deceived his patients about the prescriptions he wrote for them.
State medical board records and a civil lawsuit tell the story of the doctor who became a top opioid prescriber.
Lured by kickbacks from the drug company Insys Therapeutics, the anesthesiologist prescribed the powerful painkiller to patients who should not have received the drug.
He first caught the attention of state regulators in 2012 when the Arkansas Medical Board filed a complaint against him for problematic prescribing of all varieties of opioids. The state shuttered a pharmacy that he owned because it was selling too many painkillers.
Ahmad fought the allegations and eventually the state dropped its complaint in return for him paying a $20,000 fine. The state also erased the stain on his medical license.
In 2013, Insys Therapeutics targeted Ahmad as a doctor who could help boost sales of its relatively new opioid, Subsys, a fentanyl spray approved for cancer patients. Company officials knew of the doctor’s excessive opioid prescribing history, based on emails they wrote that are contained in a civil lawsuit filed against him in Arkansas.
Before the courtship, Ahmad wrote about 50 prescriptions for Subsys.
But after Insys wined and dined him and enticed him with kickbacks the company called “speaker fees,” he increased his use of the drug.
Between 2014 and 2015, Ahmad wrote 1,450 prescriptions for the opioid spray, an average of 14 a week. All told, he collected about $150,000 from Insys.
In 2015, he opened a practice in Alaska. His clinic operated one weekend a month and soon raised the suspicions of area pharmacists who eventually lodged complaints with the Alaska medical board.
One pharmacist told state medical board investigations that she turned away 18 patients on a single morning. All had prescriptions written by Ahmad for such high-dose opioids that the pharmacy didn’t even stock them.
After interviewing pharmacists and reviewing patients’ charts, the state revoked his license in August 2016. Arkansas followed suit two months later.
But he did not face discipline for his role in the Insys scheme, which has ensnared many company employees and officials in criminal cases.
Sources: State medical board records in Arkansas and Alaska; Pulaski County (Arkansas) circuit court records
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