Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Clifton Doctor Banned from Prescribing Painkillers

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Clifton Doctor Banned from Prescribing Painkillers

Article excerpt

A Clifton orthopedic surgeon can no longer prescribe oxycodone and other addictive, dangerous drugs and must have another orthopedist present to monitor every encounter he has with a patient, under an order from the state licensing board.

Evangelos Megariotis, owner of Clifton Orthopedic Associates at 1450 Main Ave., agreed to the restrictions in February after the Attorney General's Office filed a 53-page complaint against him.

The state alleges he over-prescribed thousands of doses of painkillers, even when he knew his patients were not using them as prescribed and were getting similar prescriptions from other doctors.

The state also contends that Megariotis, who is 65, operated on some patients without any evidence that surgery was needed, and treated them for psychiatric, respiratory and other health problems — prescribing large amounts of Prozac, cough medicine with codeine and antibiotics — when that was outside the scope of his specialty.

The order bars him from prescribing Prozac, which is not a controlled substance, in the future.

Likening him to a "rogue practitioner," Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said Megariotis "allegedly ran his practice for years with little or no concern for professional standards or the regulations in place to protect patients, including the restrictions on habit-forming prescription painkillers."

The restrictions Megariotis agreed to are temporary, pending the outcome of a hearing before an administrative law judge. No date for that has been set.

Three years ago, the state Board of Medical Examiners, which licenses doctors, toughened its enforcement of regulations designed to prevent doctors from contributing to patients' opioid addiction or the diversion of painkillers to the street.

Last year, New Jersey began requiring doctors to check the state's Prescription Monitoring Program, a multistate computerized database of prescriptions written for controlled drugs, before writing a prescription for opioids to see if the patient had received similar prescriptions from other practitioners. The state also limited the initial prescription a patient could receive to five days' worth of opioid painkillers.

Four out of five heroin addicts say their addiction began with a prescription for opioid painkillers, which eventually led to dependence and heroin use when they could no longer obtain or afford a prescription. More than 2,200 people died last year in New Jersey from opioid overdoses, and the number appears to be climbing.

The complaint against Megariotis noted that one of his patients was arrested in Belleville in March 2017 while driving the doctor's car, and was found to be in possession of cocaine, heroin, oxycodone and the doctor's prescription pad. Megariotis himself was arrested in 2014 on charges of assault and domestic violence, the complaint said, which he did not disclose on his license renewal application in 2015. …

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