Wichita Doctor Sentenced to Life For Diverting Rx Drugs to the Streets
WICHITA, KAN. - Wichita physician Steven R. Henson was sentenced today to life in federal prison for unlawfully distributing prescription drugs, U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said.
“I want this case to send a message to physicians and the health care community,” McAllister said. “Unlawfully distributing opioids and other controlled substances is a federal crime that could end a medical career and send an offender to prison.”
McAllister continued: “We are dealing with an epidemic. Nationwide, more than 70,000 Americans died in 2017 from drug overdoses. That is more than all the American casualties during the war in Vietnam.”
Henson, 57, operated the Kansas Men’s Clinic at 3636 N. Ridge Road in Wichita, stood trial in October and was convicted on the following counts:
- Conspiracy to distribute prescription drugs outside the course of medical practice (Counts 1 and 2).
- Unlawfully distributing oxycodone (Counts 3 through 14).
- Unlawfully distributing oxycodone, methadone and alprazolam (Count 16).
- Unlawfully distributing methadone and alprazolam, the use of which resulted in the death of a victim on July 24, 2015, identified in court records as N.M. (Count 17)
Presenting false patient records to investigators (Count 19).
- Obstruction of justice (Count 20)
- Money laundering (Counts 26 through 31).
Evidence at trial showed Henson was giving dangerous, maximum strength opioid prescriptions to people who did not need them.
Henson was registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration to dispense prescription controlled substances. His registered addresses included the Wichita Men’s Clinic and a location at 1861 N. Rock Road, Suite 201.
During trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Henson:
- Wrote prescriptions without a medical need.
- Wrote prescriptions in return for cash.
- Post-dated prescriptions.
- Wrote prescriptions without a legitimate medical exam.
- Wrote prescriptions for people other than the ones who came to see him.
U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten wrote in an order denying the defendant’s motion for acquittal: “The defendant kept no medical records, performed no physical examinations or physical tests, gave massive amounts of opioids to patients with little demonstrated need, wrote unneeded, non-controlled prescriptions in order to defeat pharmacy limits on controlled substances, and knew that patients were traveling improbably long distances to receive opioids. There was ample evidence that Henson was prescribing opioid medications in amounts likely to lead to addiction, and in amounts so expensive that the patients would likely be forced by economic circumstances to support their addiction by selling some of the drugs to others.”
The judge criticized Henson for deliberately not confronting the fact his patients were addicts. He had a uniform, scripted colloquy with patients in which he asked them if they had pain, they said yes and then he gave them prescriptions. In that way, he avoided asking more questions or ordering more tests. Marten called it, “a pantomime of a genuine doctor-patient relationship (that) demonstrated a consistent policy of avoiding the truth.”
Evidence presented at trial showed Henson prescribed opioid medications in amounts likely to lead to addiction and ignored the risk that his patients would pay for their drugs by selling some of the drugs to other people.
McAllister said: “The prosecution of cases involving a health professional’s misuse of medical expertise and authority is extremely important to fight the opioid epidemic. The vast majority of health care providers are people of integrity who follow their oath to help others, abide by the law, and do all they can to protect patients from becoming addicted. The evidence showed that is not what Dr. Henson did in this case.”
“For any doctors, pharmacists or nurses who disregard their oath and distribute powerful drugs illegally to enrich themselves, the message today is that they will be prosecuted to the full extent allowed by federal law.”
McAllister comended the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Tactical Diversion Squad, the Newton Police Department, the Wichita Police Department, the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division investigated, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mona Furst and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Rodebaugh for their work on the case.