An Ohio physician pleaded guilty to 52 counts of healthcare and opioid fraud in federal court.
Jeffrey Sutton, MD, 65, who practiced in Niles, pleaded guilty to 31 counts of illegally prescribing patients opioids and other controlled substances, one count of illegally distributing controlled substances and 20 counts of healthcare fraud between January 2015 and January 2022, according to a Jan. 31 news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Ohio.
According to court documents, Dr. Sutton allegedly prescribed medically unnecessary controlled substances to patients without a legitimate medical purpose. He then fraudulently billed healthcare benefit programs for the office visits and controlled substances.
He admitted to ignoring warnings from prescription drug management organizations, insurance carriers and state authorities about his high frequency of prescription. He also admitted to ignoring and choosing not to act on patient requests to lower dosages, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
Dr. Sutton is also admitted to:
- Prescribing opioid medications to patients for extended periods, including for more than a decade, with little change in regimen and despite knowing the treatment had failed.
- Prescribing short-acting opioid therapy to patients for extended periods without treatment goals, pain diagnoses or medical imaging.
- Escalating opioid dosages to extreme levels among his patients, sometimes increasing the dosage by more than 1,000 percent and more than 22 times over the CDC levels posing a risk of overdose.
- Combining opioids with other medications known to cause serious risks of slow or difficult breathing, coma and death.
- Ignoring documented behaviors that indicated patients were abusing or diverting prescribed substances.
- Engaging in sexual acts with patients to whom he prescribed controlled substances, both in his office and during dozens of home visits outside treatment.
Dr. Sutton is scheduled to be sentenced May 23, the release said.