NEWARK – A physician with a practice in Warren saw approximately 45 patients during a 6.5 hour period each week in another state, and has since lost her license.
Pramila Byahatti, who ran the Park Avenue Pain Management practice, would travel to Rhode Island to prescribe people high dosages of opioids like fentanyl and oxycodone. She would not conduct required medical or psychological examinations, properly monitoring their intake of CDS, and screening them for substance abuse issues, according to a complaint filed by the State on May 13, 2020. She has been on a board-ordered temporary suspension since July.
Charges are merely accusations until proven in a court of law.
Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal, the Office of the New Jersey Coordinator for Addiction Responses and Enforcement Strategies (“NJ CARES”), and the Division of Consumer Affairs (“the Division”) announced that the State Board of Medical Examiners (“the Board”) permanently revoked the license of Byahatti, an anesthesiologist.
In a Final Consent Order filed on October 13, 2020, Byahatti agreed to the permanent revocation of her license as well as the payment of $50,000 in costs and penalties to resolve the allegations against her.
“The COVID-19 emergency has created particular hardship for the very same residents who are most vulnerable to addiction, making our efforts to combat the opioid epidemic more important than ever,” said Attorney General Grewal. “We will take action against any licensee who tries to profit off of their patients’ health by recklessly prescribing opioid pain medications, putting them at risk of addiction, overdose, and death.”
The State alleges that in treating the patients – all males between the ages of 26 and 67 – Byahatti failed to implement coherent treatment plans, adequately document her actions, appropriately examine patients, or take any steps to preclude drug diversion or abuse.
Medical recommendations are for doctors to start with the lowest effective dosage, but this doctor allegedly prescribed extremely high levels without an exam.
Byahatti also regularly co-prescribed opioids with Xanax, Ambien or other drugs that, when combined with opioids, can result in coma and death.
She joined other physicians who lost their licenses for similar purposes:
- Mahesh M. Mehta, Paterson, for allegedly prescribing Percoset for cash.
- Barry S. Sloan, Wayne, for prescribing drugs to patients, including one who died of a fentanyl overdose.
- Najum U. Kazmi, Vineland, for writing excessive dosages of Oxycodone and other drugs “without even rudimentary safeguards in place to guard against diversion and misuse.”
- Craig D. Gialanella, Belleville, for his part in a multi-million dollar drug distribution ring.
- Chang Kang, Englewood, for prescribing Oxycodone and Alprazolam for an extended period of time, testifying that the patients said that they could not wean themselves from these high dosages that other doctors had them on.
- Jerome Goodman, Saddle River, who agreed to retire his license, to be deemed a permanent revocation, to resolve allegations he was engaged in the indiscriminate prescribing of CDS without sufficient medical knowledge.
“There is no place in the medicine for doctors who abuse their prescribing privileges for financial gain,” said Paul R. Rodríguez, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “Doctors who indiscriminately prescribe addictive pain medications in violation of their professional obligations and state law are contributing to the opioid epidemic we are all fighting to bring under control. By revoking the licenses of these physicians, the Board has removed a significant public threat and sent a message that such conduct will not be tolerated among our medical professionals.”
Also this year, allegations of indiscriminate prescribing led to long-term suspensions for two additional doctors:
- Martin Fried, Ocean Township, for five years after being arrested with two patients outside a Toms River pharmacy in a scheme to distribute Oxycodone.
- James V. Agresti, Morris and Essex counties, for two years for allegedly prescribing large quantities of opioids and other CDS for prolonged periods of time without medical justification, often in dangerously high MME levels that exposed patients to the risk of overdose.