NEWARK – The Office of the New Jersey Coordinator for Addiction Responses and Enforcement Strategies (“NJ CARES”) and the Division of Consumer Affairs today announced that the State Board of Medical Examiners (“the Board”) has suspended the licenses of two New Jersey doctors who allegedly indiscriminately prescribed highly-addictive opioids without a legitimate medical purpose, one of whom appeared in court today on federal drug distribution charges.
Dr. Martin D. Fried, a pediatric gastroenterologist who operates the Healthy Days LLC practice in Ocean Township, was suspended from practice indefinitely after he was arrested and charged with distribution of a controlled dangerous substance (“CDS”) by Toms River police in July. Today, Fried appeared in U.S. District Court in Newark to face new charges of 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. Those charges were filed by the U.S. Attorney's Office in the District of New Jersey on Monday.
Dr. Robert J. Dragert, a psychiatrist employed by Princeton House Behavioral Health in Princeton, 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 (“CDS”) without appropriate screening and/or medical justification, and without appropriately managing the opioid dependence of his patients.
“We need doctors working with us, not against us, in the fight to end New Jersey’s opioid epidemic,” said Attorney General Grewal. “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.”
“We have called on everyone in New Jersey to join us in battling the addiction crisis and members of the healthcare profession, above all others, have a duty to respond,” said Sharon Joyce, Director of NJ CARES. “Doctors who ignore that duty not only violate the standards of their profession, they thwart the efforts of fellow practitioners who are working hard to end this public health crisis.”
“By suspending the licenses of these two doctors, the Board is fulfilling its duty to protect the public,” said Paul R. Rodríguez, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “Under the conditions set forth in these Consent Orders, neither Dr. Fried, nor Dr. Dragert will be allowed to resume practice until they establish their fitness to discharge the functions of a licensed physician, including the prescribing of CDS.”
Fried was arrested outside a Walgreens pharmacy by Toms River Police on July 20, 2018. Also arrested were 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.
On July 31, Fried voluntarily surrendered his DEA registration that allowed him to prescribe CDS. Fried also voluntarily informed the Board that he ceased practicing medicine.
In a Consent Order with the Board filed in September, Fried agreed to an indefinite suspension of his medical license, pending a future demonstration of his fitness to practice, and further action by the Board.
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.
Dragert, who works 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.
Acting on a tip in May 2017, the Enforcement Bureau ("EB") 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 Dr. Wilkins. The Board also determined that despite inquiries from the police; recognition that patients were becoming aggressive and unwilling to follow appropriate CDS prescribing protocol; and his own acknowledgement that he was not appropriately managing the opioid dependence of his patients, Dragert continued to prescribe CDS without the appropriate screening and/or medical justification; conduct providing the basis for action against his license.
To resolve the matter, in September Dragert entered into a Consent Order with the Board 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 New Jersey CDS Registration, which allows him to prescribe controlled substances in this state, 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.
Dragert also is permanently barred from the practice of medicine as a solo practitioner and further agrees 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.
Under the terms of the Consent Order, Dragert must attend and pass Board-approved education courses in professional ethics, and CDS prescribing and record keeping. Failure to comply with any provision of the Order will result in subsequent disciplinary proceedings against Dragert for failure to comply with an Order of the Board.
Investigators with the Enforcement Bureau within the Division of Consumer Affairs conducted the investigation into the Dragert matter.
Deputy Attorney General Alan R. Blankstein, of the Professional Boards Prosecution Section in the Division of Law, represented the State in the Fried matter.
Deputy Attorney General Pavithra Angara, of the Professional Boards Prosecution Section in the Division of Law, represented the State in the Dragert matter.
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 its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.