California Physician May Lose Medical License over Allegations of Illegal Prescriptions to Unexamined Patients
In the "first case of its kind" in the state, the Medical Board of California has accused Dr. Jon Opsahl, a Colton physician, of "writing more than 8,000 prescriptions for antidepressants and painkillers to patients that he never examined," the Sacramento Bee reports. Opsahl interviewed the patients over the telephone after they obtained his name from a Web site but never examined them in person. A state law enacted last year prohibits doctors from "dispensing potentially dangerous drugs via the Internet without first conducting a 'good faith examination,'" which the medical board has interpreted as an examination conducted in person. Under the law, the state can issue fines of $25,000 for each prescription illegally approved by a California physician or filled by a state-based Web site. The medical board alleges that Opsahl received $60 for each "consultation" he received from Office in a Snap, a San Antonio-based Web site that has since closed. In April, Administrative Law Judge Stephen Hjelt temporarily suspended Opsahl's medical license. He wrote that Opsahl's "belief that talking over the phone with patients satisfied the requirement of a good faith examination is profoundly disturbing and demonstrates a combination of incredible arrogance and a woeful lack of judgment." Opsahl said that the telephone interviews "provided him enough information to responsibly prescribe drugs" and offered a "more efficient way of practicing medicine." He added, "I'm getting punished just because I didn't follow in goose-step marching order an outdated medical model that insists on a physical exam that isn't always necessary." Hjelt will hear Opsahl's case this week. If the medical board finds Opsahl guilty, it may place him on probation or revoke his medical license, the Bee reports (Wiegand, Sacramento Bee, 7/22).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.