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Press Release

Cabell County Doctor Sentenced To 2 Years In Prison For Federal Drug Crime

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of West Virginia

Doctor’s prescribing practices connected to numerous deaths; sentence is four times the maximum recommended by federal guidelines

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. –United States Attorney Booth Goodwin today announced that a Cabell County doctor was sentenced to two years in prison for violating federal drug control laws. Dr. Anita Dawson, 55, of Milton, W.Va., previously pleaded guilty in July to aiding and abetting the illegal acquisition of prescription drugs by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception and subterfuge. The sentence is four times the maximum sentence recommended under federal sentencing guidelines, which called for a sentence of zero to six months.

Dawson admitted that from July 2006 until May 21, 2009, she wrote prescriptions for addictive pain medications to an individual identified by the initials E.B.  Dawson admitted she prescribed a total of nearly 6,000 pills containing oxycodone and more than 220 pills for the painkiller Endocet.   Dawson further admitted that at the time she wrote the prescriptions for E.B., she knew that the patient was seeking pain medication for an addiction and other inappropriate reasons.     

Dawson and E.B. entered into a pain management agreement that required the patient to submit to drug tests and pill counts.  Despite E.B.’s repeated violations of the pain management agreement, Dawson admitted she continued to prescribe pain medication. 

At today’s sentencing hearing, United States District Judge Robert C. Chambers heard from family members of three people killed in 2009 when their vehicle was hit by another vehicle driven by a patient of Dawson’s. The patient was addicted to prescription drugs and was under the influence of prescription medication at the time of the crash. In imposing Dawson’s sentence, Judge Chambers also noted that nine other patients of Dawson’s had died of prescription drug overdoses.

“It’s hard to put into words the devastating impact of this defendant’s crimes,” said U.S. Attorney Goodwin. “My heart goes out to the families who spoke at today’s hearing and to everyone who lost a loved one because of Dr. Dawson. Judge Chambers was right: This woman’s behavior is shocking, and this case should send a message to other doctors who abuse their prescription power.”

“The vast majority of physicians prescribe responsibly,” Goodwin continued, “but even a handful of bad doctors can flood our communities with illegal pills. Every time we put a law-breaking doctor out of business, it’s a big step toward getting this problem under control.”

In sentencing Dawson, Judge Chambers said that doctors who violate prescription laws need to be held accountable for their role in the “horrible problem” of prescription drug abuse. Judge Chambers said he intended the sentence to send a warning to doctors that they will be held accountable for their prescribing practices.

Dawson’s medical license was suspended by the West Virginia Board of Osteopathy in April 2010, on the same day federal and state investigators executed a search warrant at her Milton office. Following the search and the suspension of her medical license, Dawson voluntarily gave up her license permanently.

This case was prosecuted as part of an ongoing effort led by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia to combat the illicit sale and misuse of prescription drugs.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office, joined by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, is committed to aggressively pursuing and shutting down illegal pill trafficking, eliminating open air drug markets, and curtailing the spread of opiate painkillers in communities across the Southern District. 

The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, and the Drug Enforcement Administration, with assistance from the West Virginia State Police and the Cabell County Sheriff’s Office.  Assistant United States Attorney Steven Loew handled the prosecution. 

Updated January 7, 2015