A former Auburn physician and his medical practice will pay the U.S. $135,000 in civil penalties for overprescribing opioids and other controlled substances in dangerous combinations.
United States Attorney Carla B. Freedman, and Special Agent in Charge Frank A. Tarentino III, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), New York Division made the announcement.
The Settlement Agreement resolves allegations that Dr. Chi wrote prescriptions for non-legitimate medical purposes, outside the usual course of a professional practice, in violation of the Controlled Substances Act. Specifically, the United States alleges that Dr. Chi allowed patient desires to dictate his prescribing decisions instead of his own medical judgment; he prescribed opioids, benzodiazepines, and carisoprodol in a dangerous combination known as the “Holy Trinity”; and he ignored red flags that the controlled substances he prescribed were being diverted for illicit use. Examples of admitted conduct include:
- Dr. Chi prescribed Hydrocodone-Acetaminophen, Diazepam (also known as “Valium”), and Carisoprodol (a muscle relaxant known as “Soma”) to Patient #1, even though drug screens indicated the patient was not taking the prescribed medications, while using MDMA (also known as “Molly” or “Ecstasy”), cocaine, and unprescribed Oxycodone. Patient #1 eventually died of acute intoxication by the combined effects of controlled substances- both prescribed, and unprescribed.
- Dr. Chi prescribed Adderall for Patient #2, to treat Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), but the medical records lack a sufficient basis to establish an ADHD diagnosis. At various times, Dr. Chi encouraged Patient #2 to decrease their use of Adderall and to not take it with certain other medication, however when they did not, he continued prescribing it.
- In Patient #3’s case, Dr. Chi prescribed Fentanyl patches, Oxycodone, Percocet, Lorazepam, Lyrica, and Zolpidem, among several other controlled substances. During a hospitalization in 2018, another doctor noted Patient #3 “has a problem with polypharmacy” as they were on more than 20 different medications and supplements. Dr. Chi noted Patient #3’s medications were “heavy,” and that “…I felt too [they] take much medication…” (sic.) Dr. Chi did not further reduce the patient’s medications until September 2021, after the DEA questioned his prescribing practices.
This $135,000 payment constitutes civil penalties under the Controlled Substances Act.
Dr. Chi has surrendered his DEA registration, and, as part of the civil settlement, agreed not to seek a renewal for at least 15 years.
This case was investigated by DEA Albany District Office’s Diversion Group, with assistance from the DHHS Office of Inspector General’s New York Region, the New York State Department of Health, Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, and the Auburn Police Department.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Moran represented the United States in this matter.