State Board of Medical Examiners Permanently Revokes License of Bergen County Doctor Convicted of Illegally Distributing the Prescription Drug Adderall
NEWARK – Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino and the Division of Consumer Affairs today announced that the state Board of Medical Examiners (“the Board”) has permanently revoked the license of a Bergen County psychiatrist who was convicted of illegally distributing the prescription drug Adderall.
Dr. James Cowan, Jr., who practiced from a home office in Ridgewood, agreed to forfeit his license to practice medicine in a Consent Order signed immediately after he pleaded guilty in Bergen County Superior Court last week.
Cowan’s criminal conviction comes a year and a half after his medical license was temporarily suspended by the Board amid allegations he indiscriminately prescribed Controlled Dangerous Substances (CDS) to patients; failed to keep proper patient records; and aided and abetted the unlicensed practice of medicine by allowing his wife to use his pre-signed prescription blanks to dispense drugs like Adderall and Xanax to his patients. Cowan has been barred from practicing since agreeing to the temporary suspension in June 2016.
“Instead of doing his part to help fight the scourge of addiction, Dr. Cowan exacerbated the problem by dispensing habit-forming drugs to patients without justification,” said Attorney General Porrino. “There is absolutely no place in the medical profession for doctors who abuse their prescription writing privileges to traffic in the illegal sale of highly restricted drugs.”
Adderall is an amphetamine used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Narcolepsy.
“Dr. Cowan’s egregious behavior breached the most fundamental standards of his profession and proved him unfit to practice,” said Sharon Joyce, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Protection. “By permanently revoking his medical license, the Board of Medical Examiners has ensured that Dr. Cowan will no longer pose a risk to his patients or the public at large.”
In May 2016, the state filed allegations that Cowan allowed his wife, a clinical social worker, to continue running his medical practice when he became too ill to work. While confined to a hospital, and then a nursing home, the 72-year-old Cowan allegedly pre-signed prescription blanks for his wife to dispense highly addicting drugs to his patients, many of whom exhibited signs of drug seeking behavior. Cowan’s wife, who was also prosecuted for her misconduct, has since died.
According to the State’s allegations, Cowan’s office manager told investigators that Cowan’s patients exhibited drug seeking behaviors and were often aggressive. Patients wandered into the upstairs private bedroom area to find Cowan, instead of waiting in the basement office area to be seen, and Cowan routinely left prescriptions for patients in an outside mailbox for after-hour pickups, according to the office manager.
Cowan agreed to the temporary suspension of his license pending further action by the Board. Under the terms of the Consent Order, Cowan was required to surrender all prescription pads, and any CDS in his possession, except for those lawfully prescribed for his own use.
On March 1, 2017, Cowan was arrested in Bergen County on charges related to the distribution of CDS.
The charges stemmed from an investigation that began in February 2016 when detectives from the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, in an undercover capacity, visited Cowan’s office, posing as new patients. During these office visits, the undercover officers received prescriptions for medications from Cowan in exchange for cash payments. The undercover detectives were not physically evaluated by Cowan or anyone else at his office, but instead were issued prescriptions for Xanax and Adderall.
On November 30, Cowan pleaded guilty to one count of knowingly or purposely distributing a controlled dangerous substance, namely Adderall; a third degree crime.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, Cowan was required to permanently forfeit his license to practice medicine. The state will recommend that Cowan be sentenced to non-custodial probation for a term to be determined by a judge when Cowan is sentenced on January 12, 2018.
This investigation was conducted by the Enforcement Bureau of the Division of Consumer Affairs.
Deputy Attorney General David M. Puteska from the Division of Law represented the State in this matter.
Robert T. Pickett, Esq., represented Cowan in this matter.
Patients who believe that they have been treated by a licensed health care professional in an inappropriate manner can file an
with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its
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