Newark - The New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners has temporarily suspended the license of Dr. Adam C. Gilliss, a Merchantville physician found by the Board to have engaged in a grossly negligent pattern of prescribing narcotic painkillers that put his patients at risk of addiction, and/or facilitated their possible illegal diversion of dangerous opiates.
A committee of the Board noted in a hearing report that Gilliss "knew that he was perceived to be an 'easy mark' for drug-seeking patients, but took no measures to alter his lax practices" until he became aware the Board was investigating him.
"When the State grants a physician the authority to prescribe narcotic painkillers, we expect and demand that they treat these drugs with the utmost care and caution," Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said. "Negligent practice that exposes patients to the risk of addiction to painkillers – or worse, or turns a blind eye to those who may be illegally diverting drugs, has no place in a field that is committed to aiding the infirm. When doctors violate this basic principle, we will remove them from practice."
The Division of Consumer Affairs' Enforcement Bureau, acting on behalf of the Board, investigated Gilliss' prescribing history with regard to seven patients for whom he prescribed narcotic painkillers. Gilliss prescribed significant amounts of oxycodone and/or other Controlled Dangerous Substances (CDS) to these patients for periods ending in October or November 2013.
"While the vast majority of New Jersey's doctors are responsible partners in our fight against opiate abuse, there are those who contribute to the problem either through greed or through gross negligence," Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Steve Lee said. "This action should serve as a clear warning to those physicians who, despite the deaths and suffering caused by opiate abuse, still fail to take this crisis seriously."
As set forth in the Attorney General's administrative complaint, filed with the Board of Medical Examiners by the Division of Law:
Gilliss prescribed potentially addictive narcotic painkillers to each of the patients in question for months or years at a time. In each case, Gilliss began this prescribing practice without sufficiently evaluating the patients to determine whether the prescriptions were medically necessary or justified. He also continued this practice, at times increasing the dosage or changing the narcotics prescribed, without evaluating the patients to determine whether they were at risk of drug dependency.
Among other things, Gilliss allegedly failed to record his patients' own pain evaluations and failed to obtain vital signs, conduct physical exams, or record specific diagnoses. He continuously prescribed CDS for lengthy periods without documented goals for pain management, and without reasonable efforts to prescribe alternative medications or to decrease the dosage. His medical records often were minimal and/or illegible and often failed to include his patients' chief complaints, past medical and surgical histories, complete list of medications, or complete musculoskeletal examinations, even though he was treating the patients for pain.
The State alleges that Gilliss' conduct with regard to each of the seven patients constituted gross negligence and professional or occupational misconduct, put the patients at risk for opioid overuse and dependency, and/or facilitated the patients' possible diversion of CDS.
After conducting a hearing, a committee of the Board noted in a hearing report that Gilliss' practices exposed each of the seven patients to substantial risk of developing "tolerance or addiction to prescribed opiates. In the alternative, Dr. Gilliss' failure to monitor patients facilitated the diversion of prescribed drugs." The committee found that Gilliss' continued practice of medicine "would present clear and imminent danger to public health, safety, and welfare," and voted for the temporary suspension of his license.
The full Board of Medical Examiners ratified the committee's decision at the Board's July 9, 2014 meeting. The suspension will remain in effect until the Board reviews the findings from 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.
Deputy Attorney General Bindi Merchant represented the State in this matter.