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Press Release

Roanoke Doctor Sentenced to Three Years’ Imprisonment for Over-Prescribing Opioids

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

ROANOKE, Va. – A Roanoke, Virginia doctor was sentenced to 36 months in prison, a fine of $10,000, and a forfeiture money judgment of $500,000 yesterday for distributing and dispensing Schedule II controlled substances to patients outside the usual course of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose. The controlled substances charged included high dosages of morphine, oxycodone, and hydromorphone.

U.S. Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh announced the sentence today, stating, “Ms. Lewis violated her patients’ trust by placing her own greed before their very real needs. This significant sentence sends a strong message that our office will continue to investigate and prosecute any in the health care system who seek to illegally profit from the opioid crisis.”

According to evidence presented in court, Verna Mae Lewis, 70, profited over $523,000 from her illegal prescribing. The evidence also demonstrated that she prescribed patients the same regimen of opioids month after month without tapering and, in some cases, escalated dosages without any medical justification. She issued these prescriptions following little to no medical examination, without supporting records or diagnostic studies, and in contravention of guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the Virginia Board of Medicine.

Lewis continued to prescribe opioids to patients in spite of their documented histories of substance abuse, accidental overdoses, and previous terminations from other medical practices for testing positive for cocaine and other illicit drugs.

As part of her guilty plea, Lewis agreed to surrender her medical licenses and registrations, to never apply for their reinstatement, and to never practice medicine in the future.

The Drug Enforcement Administration–Tactical Diversion Squad, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the Virginia State Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, and the Virginia State Police investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristin B. Johnson prosecuted the case for the United States.

Updated November 17, 2021