15 Texas doctors cited in illegal drug sales
7 physicians from the Houston area disciplined in ongoing crackdown
By CINDY HORSWELL
Feb. 26, 2011, 7:14AM
The Texas Medical Board this month disciplined 15 doctors — including seven from the Houston area — for improperly dispensing dangerous drugs, part of an ongoing crackdown of a burgeoning illicit industry of doctors and pharmacists illegally dispensing prescription medicine.
Houston in particular has become a national hub for the illegal sale of prescription drugs, especially a narcotic known by such brand names as Vicodin, anti-anxiety drugs and muscle relaxants.
"These numbers just show how pervasive the pill problem has become. Both the appetite for the drugs and the willingness to prescribe," said medical board spokeswoman Leigh Hopper. "The crackdown on the prescription drug problem is one of our big priorities. We are taking full advantage of our new authority to investigate pain clinics that was granted in the new law that took effect in September."
The new law mandates stricter regulations such as requiring all pain management clinics be doctor-owned.
Husband, wife get jail
Meanwhile, a husband-wife doctor team from Kemah have both been sentenced to prison and ordered to forfeit more than $43 million gained from conspiring to improperly dispense addictive drugs and bill Medicare and Medicaid for procedures that never occurred.
Dr. Kiran Sharma, 56, was sentenced to eight years in federal prison on Friday, while her husband, Dr. Arun Sharma, was sentenced to 15 years on Feb. 1.
As the government begins recouping the $43 million, the Sharmas already have been forced to relinquish their $700,000 home in Kemah, numerous other parcels of real estate and $800,000 in cash found in two safe deposit boxes.
The latest doctors to be disciplined from the Houston area include two from League City.
Dr. Ronald Esteene Sims, 68, an internist there, permanently surrendered his Texas medical license to avoid further discipline for the non-therapeutic prescribing of controlled substances.
Dr. Richard Joseph Kondejewski, also from League City, received a public reprimand and is barred from prescribing dangerous drugs, as he was forced to surrender his U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration permit. The family practitioner also was ordered to cease delegating prescriptive authority for a year and receive training.
The board determined he, too, had been prescribing dangerous drugs in a non-therapeutic manner, including to a known drug abuser.
In Friendswood, Dr. Malini Kumar agreed to receive training in diagnosing and treating chronic pain as well as record keeping. The board found he also was non-therapeutically prescribing dangerous drugs and keeping inadequate records on chronic pain patients.
A Houston physician, Dr. Kasturirangan Saranathan, paid a $2,000 fine and agreed to record-keeping and risk management training because of findings of inadequate records and improper management of chronic pain patients.
The board likewise found a Houston physician, Dr. Maricela Cantu, had violated rules by writing false or fictitious prescriptions for dangerous drugs. She was publicly reprimanded and fined $500 for writing these prescriptions for non-therapeutic reasons. She also was barred from consuming prohibited substances herself for a year unless prescribed by another physician and ordered to pass jurisprudence and ethics exams.
In Livingston, Dr. Elias Kanaan was ordered to have another physician monitor his practice and complete a record-keeping course because the board found he had not used proper diligence in the handling of pain patients.
Finally, Dr. Gloria Castro-Zappia in Beaumont was ordered to pay a $500 fine for writing prescriptions for controlled substances with an expired law enforcement registration number over a nine-month period.