You are here

Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Washington

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Arizona Doctor Sued for Prescribing Controlled Substances without DEA Registration in Washington State

Doctor Employed By Online Company Based In Florida

            The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington filed a civil Complaint today against an Arizona physician who violated the Controlled Substances Act by prescribing narcotic painkillers in Washington State without having a DEA registration number in Washington, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.  Dr. Barton Butterbaugh was the Chief Medical Officer for EClinicMD LLC.  EClinicMD is an internet-based company based in Florida.  The Complaint alleges that between 2009 and 2012 Dr. Barton Butterbaugh traveled to Washington State an average of once a month and authorized thousands of prescriptions for controlled substances for Washington residents.  Dr. Butterbaugh did not have a DEA registration number in Washington and, therefore, it was illegal for him to prescribe medications in Washington.

According to the allegations in the Complaint, EClinicMD states on its website that it is a “third party administrator” for a network of physicians.  It operates by partnering with doctors whom it then pairs with patients seeking appointments.  The doctors purportedly obtain patient medical records and forms from EClinicMD before seeing the patients for an initial in-person examination.  The company did not accept insurance, instead charging $285 for an initial appointment and $165 for the “telemedicine consultations” through which patients got their prescriptions refilled.  On the one day a month he was in town, Dr. Butterbaugh rented space from local businesses and met with dozens of patients (many of whom traveled considerable distances from other parts of the state for the appointment).  Through these visits, and subsequent follow-up phone calls for refills, Dr. Butterbaugh authorized thousands of prescriptions for controlled substances for Washington residents.

            Under the Controlled Substances Act, the penalties for violating the Act are as much as $25,000 per violation.  The government alleges that Dr. Butterbaugh’s business practices in Washington are unlawful, have served to allow him to evade DEA monitoring, and have harmed the citizens of this State, while enriching himself.

            The filing of the civil Complaint is just the beginning of the litigation process.  The charges must be proven in court by a preponderance of the evidence.  The case is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Christina Dimock.  The investigation of Dr. Butterbaugh’s prescribing practices was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration –Drug Diversion Unit.

Updated March 20, 2015