NEWARK – The Division of Consumer Affairs today announced that the New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners has obtained the voluntary, temporary license suspension of Dr. Liviu T. Holca, a Manahawkin physician accused of illegally distributing highly addictive opiate painkillers with no medical justification. The suspension was obtained in lieu of a disciplinary hearing by the Board, and will remain in place pending further order of the Board.
"Ocean County has seen the worst of New Jersey's deadly opiate epidemic, with an alarming number of recent overdose deaths. This doctor allegedly pocketed large sums of cash while perpetuating his own county's public health crisis," Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said. "This swift enforcement action is part of our effort to halt the deaths and ruined lives caused by opiate abuse."
Holca was arrested in January by Ocean County law enforcement personnel and charged with prescribing quantities of CDS without medical necessity, along with other charges. The arrest followed a joint investigation led by the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs and the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office. During the investigation, Holca allegedly wrote prescriptions for hundreds of Percocet and Xanax pills for an undercover officer whom Holca believed to be a patient. The undercover officer repeatedly told Holca that she did not need the pills for any medical reason, but that she took them because they made her "feel good" and that she also gave them to friends.
In addition, data obtained from the New Jersey Prescription Monitoring Program (NJPMP) demonstrated an alleged pattern by Holca of indiscriminately prescribing controlled opiate painkillers to multiple patients between May 2011 and December 2013. The NJPMP, maintained by the Division of Consumer Affairs, tracks the prescription and sale of medications classified as Controlled Dangerous Substances (CDS) and is an important component of New Jersey's fight against prescription drug diversion and abuse.
"The Division of Consumer Affairs partnered with the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office to stop Dr. Holca's alleged indiscriminate prescribing," Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Steve Lee said. "Today's action by the Board of Medical Examiners will ensure he is unable to practice medicine or write prescriptions until further order of the Board."
As set forth in the Attorney General's administrative complaint against Holca, which was filed before the Board of Medical Examiners by the Division of Law:
- Holca prescribed CDS painkillers to the undercover officer and other patients, without conducting physical examinations, creating written treatment plans, or performing consultations. His office allegedly accepted cash payments from the undercover officer, during each visit in which Holca prescribed painkillers.
- Although the undercover officer repeatedly told Holca that she had no medical need for the pills and that she misused them, on one occasion he asked her to provide a handwritten note justifying her need for the pills. He asked her to write that she had back pain, would not operate heavy machinery, and would not hold Holca responsible for problems.
- NJPMP and other records indicate that Holca repeatedly prescribed CDS to patients who showed various warning signs of addiction or drug diversion. In two cases, insurance or pharmacy benefit management companies warned Holca about the drug-related activities of specific patients. One company repeatedly notified Holca that a patient had obtained opioid narcotics from several pharmacies and multiple physicians. Even after receiving these notices, Holca allegedly continued to prescribe CDS to the patient.
- In another example, a patient repeatedly made excuses to ask for additional prescriptions – such as telling Holca that his prescription had been "stolen," "left in stolen luggage," or "washed in the laundry." Holca allegedly continued to prescribe to this patient.
- In still another example, a note in Holca's file for a patient indicate that Holca had reason to believe the patient was abusing Roxicet, Percocet, and Suboxone, and that he knew or believed the patient was obtaining Percocet from another physician – but that Holca continued to prescribe CDS to the patient.
The temporary suspension of Holca's license will remain in effect until the Board reviews a plenary hearing in the matter, after which the Board may decide to impose further discipline if a basis for disciplinary action is found.
The Division of Consumer Affairs' Enforcement Bureau conducted this investigation, in partnership with the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration through its Camden Resident Office, and the Stafford Police Department.
Deputy Attorneys General Gezim Bajrami and David M. Puteska, of the Division of Law's Professional Boards Prosecution Section, represented the State in this matter.