A New Jersey doctor whose license was suspended after a patient died of an opioid overdose is now facing drug dealing charges.
Authorities in Burlington County say Morris “Moishe” Starkman overprescribed opioids at his Bordentown practice, giving cursory examinations to patients before prescribing them large amounts of the drugs, prosecutor Scott Coffina said in a news statement.
Despite being a solo family medicine practice, Starkman was one of the top prescribers of opioids in Burlington County and the state. He prescribed nearly 1.4 million doses between Jan. 1 2015 and Jan. 1 2018. That’s enough to give every person in Burlington County three opioid doses.
One patient was given more than 17,000 oxycodone pills over three years, or more than 15 a day. The maximum daily dosage recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is two 30mg pills.
Authorities began investigating Starkman in 2016 after a tip from an insurance company. Over years, investigators built a case that Starkman readily prescribed drugs like oxycodone, morphine and fentanyl, but also defrauded insurance companies of more than $50,000 by billing them for medical services he was not licensed to perform, like urine tests.
Dr. Andrew Kaufman, who leads the Comprehensive Pain Center at Rutgers Medical School told detectives there was no medically necessary reason a patient could need that many doses.
Legal documents further allege a pattern of shoddy recordkeeping on patients, letting them in the back door and accepting cash for appointments. One patient, who also worked for Starkman, said he treated her fractured foot with more opioids. She didn’t have insurance to see a rheumatologist or get outside treatment.
Starkman was suspended from practicing medicine in New Jersey in April 2018 following a state investigation that revealed the death of one of his patients. The male patient came to Starkman as a 19-year-old complaining of lower back pain. Starkman prescribed pain pills, sometimes as many as 240 pills a month.
The doctor continued to refill the prescriptions despite concerning visits in 2014 and 2015 where H.H. was “slurring and falling asleep” or “sick [and] ran out of meds early again.” He died in May 2015 of an overdose at the age of 22, two months after his final visit with Starkman.
“It is well documented that prescription opioids lay at the origin of the devastating drug use epidemic we are experiencing today,” Coffina’s statement said. “Around 80 percent of heroin users started with prescription drugs. Physicians who have abandoned their medical judgment and indiscriminately prescribed opioids to patients they knew or should have known were becoming addicted to them must be held accountable for their role in this ongoing health crisis.”