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Busting the Candy Man


Evidence against a doctor arrested last week for trafficking narcotic pain relievers includes a spreadsheet compiled by hospital physicians to document a relationship between the doctor's prescriptions and emergency room visits.

The Santa Barbara, Calif. doctor allegedly supplied addicts with large quantities of potent pain killers, such as OxyContin, even when they were not medically necessary, according to a 75-page criminal complaint and affidavit.

The documents discuss allegations that in some cases he traded sexual favors for drugs and it describes fatal overdoses linked to narcotics prescribed by the doctor, known as the “Candy Man” because of users' ability to easily obtain narcotics from him.

One patient who died in November 2011 had been prescribed 2,087 pills, or about 63 per day. Some of the drugs were diverted to the black market.

I have written several stories about the work employers and insurers are doing to prevent workers compensation claimants from becoming addicted to narcotic pain medications. Those stories on what insurers and employers are doing are available here.

The criminal complaint and affidavit against Dr. Julio Gabriel Diaz does not reference any workers comp claimants. But the documents do show that nearly $1 million in claims were submitted to Anthem Blue Cross for prescriptions written by Dr. Diaz over a three year period.

Prescription drug abuse has reached epidemic levels in our nation.

So hats off to the doctors at Cottage Hospital who did their part. They were so concerned about the frequent number of emergency room visits by Dr. Diaz patients that they started compiling the spreadsheet. Some of the ER visits were for overdoses and severe withdrawls.

Over a two year period there were 410 emergency room visits and 112 hospital admissions among other hospitalizations.

But not all may be well in the investigation of doctors who are alleged to engage in similar practices.

A newspaper story available here asks why it took investigators so long to arrest Dr. Diaz.