Patient death leads to overprescribing charges against Pennsylvania psychiatrist

Following an investigation sparked by a 2018 patient death, John Mitchell, MD, a psychiatrist from Lehigh Valley, Pa., was arrested May 23 and charged with 13 counts, including illegally administering, dispensing or prescribing schedule II controlled substances, local news source Lehigh Valley Live reported.

State officials began investigating Dr. Mitchell, 70, in May 2018 after a 32-year-old patient was found dead with 10 prescription bottles of medication prescribed by Dr. Mitchell, according to court documents. 

According to prosecutors, between 2003 and 2018, Dr. Mitchell prescribed schedule II drugs such as oxycodone, morphine, hydrocodone, hydromorphone and Adderall at doses above FDA-recommended doses; prescribed stimulants to patients with drug dependence; and did not monitor patient medication levels properly or count pills. The investigation involved 10 patients. 

Dr. Mitchell allegedly prescribed two patients Adderall at four to six times the recommended maximum dosage, and Ritalin at seven times the maximum dose for another.

Dr. Mitchell's attorney declined to comment on the specifics of the case to Lehigh Valley Live, but told the publication that Dr. Mitchell has treated 3,000 patients and the investigation involves a small percentage of them.

Dr. Mitchell was released on $75,000 bail and is currently not working, though his medical license is active until the end of the year. 

In a separate incident in 2006, Dr. Mitchell admitted to having a personal and romantic relationship with a patient, while simultaneously prescribing her medication without maintaining her medical records. For that infraction, his medical license was suspended — though the suspension was stayed for three years — and he was put on probation, took continuing education courses and had to pay a $7,000 fine, Pennsylvania news source The Morning Call reported in June 2006.

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