TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A Tampa-area doctor was ordered to close his pain management clinic and pay $600,000 in civil penalties after allegedly prescribing opioids “without a legitimate medical purpose.”
The United States Department of Justice ordered Dr. Tobias Bacaner, who operated Cobalt Pharmacy in Hudson, to close the clinic and pay back $500,000 in civil penalties, as well as submit to a ban on “prescribing, administering, dispensing or distributing controlled substances, among other restrictions,” according to the Justice Department.
A February 2021 legal filing alleged Bacaner, among others, had written prescriptions for opioids, of a “potent and dangerous” variety, even though there were “obvious signs of immediate peril to his patients from those drugs.” Additionally, the court record said his business partners and co-defendants profited from his unlawful prescriptions.
Bacaner’s co-defendants were Theodore and Timothy Ferguson, who operated a “cash-only pain clinic” in New Port Richey, Paragon Community Healthcare. They also co-owned Bacaner’s Cobalt Pharmacy. According to USDOJ, Cobalt customers were “charged inflated cash prices” for their opioid prescriptions, and that some of those patients who received the drugs “have died or suffered irreparable physical harm” from overdoses and addiction.
According to USDOJ, “The complaint further alleged that Dr. Bacaner and the Fergusons used their jointly owned pharmacy, Cobalt Pharmacy, to unlawfully fill prescriptions issued at Paragon without scrutiny.”
The federal government has now “imposed civil monetary penalties” for violation of the Controlled Substances Act and enjoined Bacaner and the Fergusons conduct “to protect the public health.”
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Collectively, the Fergusons and their Paragon business are also required to pay $100,000 in civil penalties, according to USDOJ. Paragon will also have to permanently close, and the Fergusons will be unable “to own or work at entities that administer, dispense or distribute controlled substances in the future.”
Now, a federal court has ordered both clinics dissolved, via a consent decree by U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Hernandez Covington. Agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Tactical Diversion Squad in Tampa investigated the clinics, according to USDOJ.
“Physicians who prescribe opioids without a legitimate medical purpose and outside of the usual course of professional practice and others who facilitate that conduct will be held accountable,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, said. “The department will continue to aggressively use all available enforcement remedies to prevent the unlawful diversion of potentially dangerous prescription drugs.”