State suspends license of Princeton House psychiatrist for allegedly prescribing opioids without a legitimate medical purpose (updated)

The NewJersey Board of Medical Examiners suspended the license of a psychiatrist at Princeton House Behavioral Health today for allegedly indiscriminately prescribed highly addictive opioids without a legitimate medical purpose.

Robert Dragert

Dr. Robert J. Dragert was suspended from practice for two years and permanently barred from solo practice under a consent order that resolves allegations that while working as a private practitioner in Medford on Saturdays, he indiscriminately prescribed controlled dangerous substances without appropriate screening or medical justification, and without appropriately managing the opioid dependence of his patients.

Dragert, who worked full-time as a psychiatrist for Princeton House Behavioral Health, agreed to a two-year suspension to resolve allegations stemming from his work as a private practitioner at Community Treatment Options, a Medford facility owned by  Dr. John Wilkins.

Penn Medicine Princeton Health issued a statement on Friday saying that Dragert is not active on the Medical Staff of Penn Medicine Princeton House Behavioral Health at this time. “The issues recently addressed by the New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners refer exclusively to his outpatient practice, which is separate and distinct from the position he held at Princeton House,” reads the statement. “All psychiatrists and all clinical staff at Princeton House are supervised and their prescribing practices are monitored closely.”

Acting on a tip in May 2017, the enforcement bureau of the Division of Consumer Affairs performed an inspection of the Medford medical office and issued a subpoena for patient records. Those records revealed inadequate medical histories, prescribing of opiates without sufficient justification, and sparse notes in terms of details of the patient visit.

In October 2017, Dragert appeared before a committee of the board to address the findings of the inspection and record review. As a result of his appearance, the board determined that Dragert did not have sufficient control of the office or staff while in private practice with Wilkins. The board also determined that despite inquiries from the police, recognition that patients were becoming aggressive and unwilling to follow appropriate controlled dangerous substances prescribing protocol,  and his own acknowledgement that he was not appropriately managing the opioid dependence of his patients, Dragert continued to prescribe opioids without the appropriate screening or medical justification. Officials said this conduct was the basis for action to suspend his license.

In September,  Dragert entered into a consent order that imposes a two-year suspension of his medical license, with one year to be served as a period of active suspension, and the remainder to be served as a period of probation.

Dragert’s license to prescribe controlled substances in New Jersey is also suspended for two years, with one year to be served as a period of active suspension, and the remainder to be served as a period of probation. He also is permanently barred from the practice of medicine as a solo practitioner and has agreed to employ the services of an office management company should he ever be employed within a group practice with any ownership or management interest. He was also assessed a $30,000 civil penalty.

A second doctor in Ocean Township was also suspended today. Dr. Martin D. Fried, a pediatric gastroenterologist who operates Healthy Days LLC, was suspended from practice indefinitely after he was arrested and charged with the distribution of a controlled dangerous substance by Toms River police in July. Fried appeared in U.S. District Court in Newark today to face new charges for attempted distribution of oxycodone, distribution of Adderall, and distribution of Xanax outside the usual course of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose.

Fried was arrested outside a Walgreens pharmacy by Toms River Police on July 20. Two of Fried’s patients to whom he allegedly prescribed oxycodone, alprazolam (the generic form of Xanax), and d-amphetamine salt combo (the generic form of Adderall) without a legitimate medical purpose were also arrested.

Under the terms of the consent order, prior to any restoration of his license Fried must, at a minimum, participate in a professional assistance treatment program and comply with the requirements of the program – including abstaining from the use of all psychoactive substances, including alcohol and medications containing alcohol, unless prescribed by a treating physician for a documented medical condition. Fried must also appear before the board to discuss his readiness to re-enter the practice of medicine, and affirmatively establish his fitness, competence and capacity to practice.

Under the conditions set forth in these consent orders, Fried and Dragert will not be allowed to resume practice until they establish their fitness to discharge the functions of a licensed physician, including the prescribing of controlled dangerous substances,  said Paul Rodríguez, acting director of the Division of Consumer Affairs.

“We need doctors working with us, not against us, in the fight to end New Jersey’s opioid epidemic,” Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a statement about the suspensions. “As these actions demonstrate, we will continue to crack down on doctors who flout prescribing laws and fuel the opioid health crisis by indiscriminately dispensing pain medications that lead to addiction.”

Patients who believe that they have been treated by a licensed health care professional in an inappropriate manner can file an online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting the division’s website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504- 6200.