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Press Release

Bluefield Doctor Pleads Guilty to Misbranding

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

ABINGDON, Va. – Phillip Peterson, a family medicine physician in Bluefield Virginia, pleaded guilty this week in U.S. District Court in Abingdon to misbranding for a two-year pattern of prescribing Schedule II controlled substances to patients to what his office staff called “back door patients.” United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen announced the guilty plea.

Peterson, 64, pleaded guilty earlier this week to a misdemeanor charge of misbranding. A drug is deemed misbranded if it is caused to be dispensed without a valid prescription. A prescription issued outside the usual course of professional practice is not valid.  As part of his plea agreement, Peterson will serve one to three months in prison.

According to court documents, between December 2014 and January 2016, Peterson was a family medicine physician at Bluefield Family Medicine in Bluefield, Va. During this time, Peterson saw patients who did not check in with the receptionist and rather entered through the side door. Office staff called these patients “back door patients.” These patients came through the side door to pick-up Schedule II controlled substances prescriptions, which they had received from Peterson for years. These “back door patients” were not actually examined by Dr. Peterson each time they picked up prescriptions and did not pay for office visits.

Evidence showed that each of the prescriptions listed for the “back door patients” was issued outside the usual course of professional practice.

Dr. Peterson also had at least one patient who brought lists of prescriptions to the front desk of Bluefield Family Medicine for the receptionist to give to Dr. Peterson or his nurse.  Dr. Peterson authorized those prescriptions, including prescriptions for Schedule II controlled substances, on occasion without the patient actually being seen or evaluated by Dr. Peterson.  Evidence showed that these prescriptions were issued outside the usual course of professional practice.

The investigation of the case was conducted by Drug Enforcement Administration’s Tactical Diversion Squad. Assistant United States Attorneys Lena Busscher, Whit D. Pierce and Randy Ramseyer are prosecuting the case for the United States.

Updated April 18, 2023