Crime

Eagle doctor denies prescribing drugs without medical purpose

Dr. Michael Minas
Dr. Michael Minas

Dr. Michael Minas says he properly examined three patients who complained of shoulder or back pain before prescribing increasing amounts of a powerful painkiller.

The three patients turned out to be undercover police officers investigating whether Minas was prescribing large amounts of oxycodone later sold on the street to drug addicts.

Minas, 50, is charged with 146 felony counts of distribution of a controlled substance. Three separate indictments were issued between June 2014 and April 2015 accusing Minas of providing patients with drugs without a legitimate medical reason.

In October 2014, Minas agreed to plead guilty to three of the 17 charges then pending against him. He later changed his mind and asserted that he was innocent.

Prosecutors then returned to a grand jury with new allegations. Subsequent indictments were issued in November 2014 and April 2015.

Minas has pleaded not guilty to the charges. A jury trial is set for April 18, with Senior U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge presiding.

In an affidavit filed earlier this month in federal court in Boise, Minas said he spent adequate time with each of the men, who saw him between January and June 2014. The affidavit only covers the three undercover officers. He did not comment on other patients that prosecutors say he supplied with more pills than were needed for legitimate medical treatment.

 

The affidavit is being used to challenge another court document that police used to obtain warrants to search Minas’ Eagle clinic, his Boise residence and his car. Minas says Justin Wright, a detective with the Ada County Sheriff’s Office, misrepresented material facts and withheld other facts beneficial to Minas in his search warrant application.

The first undercover officer saw Minas on Jan. 13, 2014, complaining of back and hip pain. The officer told Minas he had fallen off a platform while working a construction job in Colorado before moving to Boise. He reinjured himself, he told the doctor, after taking a “nasty fall” while snowboarding at Bogus Basin.

He told Minas he was suffering from lower back pain on both sides and experienced tight muscles and muscle spasms. He said he had taken Aleve and other anti-inflammatory medications without relief. The officer told Minas that his doctor in Colorado had prescribed 30 mg tablets of oxycodone, which he said worked to control his pain.

Minas noted that the officer walked with a gait that indicated he was trying to avoid pain. Minas said he detected tenderness in the man’s back muscles. He said he diagnosed him with lumbar back pain and muscle spasm. Minas said he prescribed 60 tablets of 30-mg oxycodone for pain and 30 10-mg diazepam for muscle spasms.

Minas saw the patient four more times between Feb. 13 and May 12. The man said he was taking more pills than directed and sought larger prescriptions, which Minas provided. During the examinations, Minus suggested the man buy a yoga ball that would reduce stress on his spine, that he employ stretching exercises and that he use heat or ice, along with anti-inflammatory medication.

The other two undercover officers reported similar pain and also sought increased numbers of pills at each visit.

Minas told one of the officers that he was being flooded by new patients seeking pain medication. He said a local nurse practitioner had her prescription license canceled and he suspected many of the new patients came from that practice.

Minas said many of those people lacked identification and medical records and could not identify their past provider.

“I said that many of these patients had no identification, no records, no prior provider and I concluded they were looking for pain medications they could sell, so I would not see them,” Minas wrote in his 35-page affidavit.

 

Minus said his recollections were based upon review of video and audio tapes secretly recorded by the officers and review of his own medical records.

Several times, Minas said, the recordings showed his receptionist telling the undercover officers that Minas and his staff had to make sure patients weren’t there to “get a prescription to pay your rent.” The receptionist said that Minas and his staff want to treat their patients the best they can, but they have to be assured there weren’t coming in looking for drugs.

Minas said he charged patients without insurance $100 per office visit.

Prosecutors say Minas failed to follow accepted standards and practices for dispensing pain medication. He doled out pills with minimal or no patient evaluation or treatment plan, starting patients at a high dose and increasing the dosage without legitimate medical purpose, they say.

The indictment says Minas gave minimal, if any, consideration to medical alternatives or discussions with patients about the risk of becoming dependent on the drugs.

In letters to the editor and in online posts since his arrest, many of Minas’ patients have praised him as a compassionate and caring doctor.

John Sowell: 208-377-6423, @IDS_Sowell

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