Wilmington Doctor to Pay $170,000 to Resolve Allegations of Unlawful Prescribing of Opioids
WILMINGTON, N.C. – Dr. Mark S.T. Armitage, a physician practicing with Pelican Family Medicine in Wilmington, North Carolina, agreed to pay $170,000 to resolve alleged violations of the Controlled Substances Act. Dr. Armitage, who previously surrendered his Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) registration to prescribe controlled substances, further agreed not to reapply for authorization to prescribe Schedule II controlled substances until April 30, 2024. The settlement was announced by Michael F. Easley, Jr., United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
Based on its investigation, the United States contended that from approximately 2009 until 2018, Dr. Armitage issued prescriptions for opioids and other controlled substances outside the usual course of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose. For example, Dr. Armitage allegedly wrote prescriptions for “The Trinity”—the combination of an opioid, a benzodiazepine, and a muscle relaxer, which is frequently sought by drug abusers—on nearly 400 separate occasions between 2016 and 2018. In total, Dr. Armitage allegedly wrote nearly 9,000 prescriptions for Schedule II controlled substances, like oxycodone, over that two-year time-period.
The United States’ investigation followed a 2018 Consent Order entered by the North Carolina Medical Board, in which Dr. Armitage acknowledged that his multi-year prescribing of opioids and other controlled substance to one patient, who was a mother of four, “constitute[d] a departure from or a failure to conform to the standards of acceptable and prevailing medical practice.” Dr. Armitage continued to prescribe the patient opioids and other controlled substances even after the patient exhibited numerous warnings signs of abuse, experienced significant weight loss, and went into acute narcotic withdrawal. The patient was ultimately involuntarily admitted for addiction detoxification.
“Doctors take an oath to, first, do no harm. Anything else is unacceptable, especially when it comes to prescribing opioids and other dangerous drugs. Irresponsible doctors endanger their patients’ lives and can put a tremendous toll on society at large,” said United States Attorney Michael F. Easley, Jr. “This case is just one part of our continued commitment to combat the opioid crisis by holding doctors accountable for compliance with the Controlled Substances Act.”
The resolution obtained in this matter was the result of a coordinated effort between the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina and the Drug Enforcement Administration, Diversion Control Program. Assistant United States Attorneys Michael Anderson and Andrew Kasper represented the United States.
The United States’ factual and legal assertions are allegations only, and there has been no admission or judicial determination of liability. The civil settlement agreement is not an admission of any liability by Dr. Armitage, nor a concession by the United States that its potential claims were not well-founded.
The DEA encourages parents, along with their children, to educate themselves about the dangers of legal and illegal drugs by visiting DEA’s interactive websites at www.JustThinkTwice.com, www.GetSmartAboutDrugs.com, www.CampusDrugPrevention.gov, and www.dea.gov . Also follow DEA Atlanta via Twitter at @DEAATLANTADiv