Southeast Missouri Health Organization Pays $1.6 Million Settlement for Invalid Prescriptions
St. Louis, Mo. - Saint Francis Medical Center of Southeast Missouri has agreed to pay more than $1.6 million to settle a civil suit by the United States, resolving claims under the Controlled Substances Act.
The U.S. government alleged that Saint Francis employed a Farmington, Missouri, physician, Brett Dickinson, who wrote prescriptions for controlled substances without legitimate medical purposes and outside the usual course of professional practice. As part of the settlement, Saint Francis agreed to pay $1,624,957.67.
The suit claimed that Saint Francis, through Dickinson’s actions in the scope of his employment, issued invalid prescriptions for opioids such as morphine, hydromorphone, and oxycodone. Dickinson prescribed these opioids to patients simultaneously with muscle relaxers and benzodiazepines. Such drugs are known to enhance the addictive, euphoric effects of opioids and, as a result, are commonly sought after in combination with opioids by individuals with substance abuse disorders and individuals who seek to use opioids recreationally. Dickinson is alleged to have issued these prescriptions while ignoring warning signs of drug diversion or misuse, including aberrant urine drug test results and patients’ previous hospital treatment for medical problems related to drug misuse.
Although not part of the settlement agreement, in August 2021, Saint Francis voluntarily incorporated the Foundation for Opioid Prescribing Education in the State of Missouri. According to Saint Francis, the Foundation, which it funded with an initial contribution of $1 million, will be used to fund education programs for physicians and other healthcare professionals in Southeast Missouri on best practices in prescribing opioids and managing patients with chronic pain issues.
Saint Francis fully cooperated with the investigation. Additionally, as part of the settlement, Saint Francis agreed to cooperate with the investigation of individuals not released in the settlement agreement, including by furnishing documents related to the prescribing of controlled substances by Dickinson.
The Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Missouri Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit investigated the case.