United States Files Suit Against Montgomery County Psychiatrist for Alleged Improper Opioid Prescribing
Suit Proposes Judgment of $250,000 and Strict Limitations on Controlled Substance Prescribing
PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced that the United States filed a civil lawsuit against Elizabeth N. Kuh, a psychiatrist practicing in Montgomery County, alleging that she wrote improper opioid and benzodiazepine prescriptions for two of her patients. According to the complaint, Kuh wrote 30 opioid and benzodiazepine prescriptions to a husband and wife couple which lacked a legitimate medical purpose, were issued outside the usual course of professional practice, and many of which resulted in false claims to Medicare.
The complaint filed by the United States alleges that Kuh had no specialization or training in pain management, but she repeatedly prescribed the couple 80mg OxyContin and benzodiazepine controlled substances. The prescriptions were allegedly issued to the couple frequently by mail without an in-person physical examination, without urine drug screens or diagnostic testing, frequently not recorded in Kuh’s records, and frequently while the wife’s pain management and other conditions were managed by other providers. Kuh’s improper prescribing continued for years, even after she learned that the wife’s opioids could be harming her mental health and contributing to hallucinations.
The complaint alleges that this prescribing by Kuh only ended shortly after the husband committed suicide. Kuh had allegedly sent multiple prescriptions of OxyContin through the mail to the husband—once again, without physical examination, urine drug screen, diagnostic testing, or attempting less dangerous alternatives. Kuh allegedly responded by mailing additional OxyContin prescriptions to the wife at her request. The United States’ suit seeks damages for the alleged false claims to Medicare, civil penalties for the improper prescriptions, and injunctive relief to restrict Kuh’s controlled substance registration.
The United States and Kuh have entered into a Stipulated Order and Consent Judgment, subject to the Court’s approval, which would resolve the matter without litigation. If approved by the Court, the Judgment would require Kuh to pay $250,000 to the United States, prohibit Kuh from ever writing another opioid prescription, and would treat any future violation as contempt of court.
“While all healthcare providers have a duty to ensure the well-being of their patients, psychiatrists have the responsibility of treating and caring for particularly vulnerable patients,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “Psychiatrists who write opioid or benzodiazepine prescriptions to their patients must ensure that the prescriptions are appropriate and comply with federal and state law. My Office’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement Strike Force will continue to aggressively pursue improper opioid and controlled substance prescribing, hold providers accountable, and protect the citizens of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.”
“All registrants, to include Dr. Kuh, have an obligation to prescribe controlled substances such as opioids and benzodiazepines solely for a legitimate medical purpose and within the course of professional medical practice,” said Jonathan A. Wilson, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Philadelphia Field Division. “The allegations against Kuh, who repeatedly prescribed these powerful drugs without any training in pain management and without conducting routine physical examinations, are deeply concerning.”
“Civil enforcement is an important tool to recover funds when physicians cause improper claims to the Medicare program,” said Maureen R. Dixon, Special Agent in Charge for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General. “HHS-OIG will continue to work with the Affirmative Civil Enforcement Strike Force and our other law enforcement partners to ensure the integrity of the Medicare program.”
This investigation was conducted with the Philadelphia Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Pennsylvania Department of State’s Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation, and the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. For the United States Attorney’s Office, Assistant United States Attorney Anthony D. Scicchitano and Auditors Dawn Wiggins and Denis Cooke handled the matter.
The complaint contains allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.