NEWARK – A local doctor will keep his medical license but will not be allowed to prescribe controlled dangerous substances, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office announced today.
Toms River physiatrist (practitioner of physical rehabilitation) Bruce Coplin has allegedly overprescribed opioid pain killers for years. Despite arguments from the attorney general’s office, the State Board of Medical Examiners decided to only bar the doctor from prescribing CDS while his case awaits a hearing by an administrative judge.
State Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal was asking for a temporary suspension of Coplin’s medical license.
Coplin had been investigated by the N.J. Division of Consumer Affairs and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. That investigation provided video recordings showing Coplin prescribing opioids to undercover investigators who told him they had diverted some of those pain pills.
“If we are serious about ending the opioid crisis, then we must also get serious about holding doctors accountable when they recklessly prescribe these drugs,” Grewal said. “Our investigation revealed that Dr. Coplin’s dangerous practices put the public’s safety at risk. We believe he has exhibited such dangerous judgment that a full cessation of practice was the only remedy adequate to protect the public. We are disappointed that the Board of Medical Examiners disagreed.”
“At a time when opioid overdoses are causing New Jersey death rates to soar, physicians are obligated to be part of the solution,” Paul R. Rodríguez, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs, said. “Where the State shows that a physician disregards evidence of diversion, nothing short of a temporary suspension from practice adequately protects the public. I find it troubling that the Board failed to take that step to protect the public in light of the compelling evidence presented in this case.”
The State filed a complaint with the Board of July 30, which alleged the doctor endangered the life, health, welfare or safety of eight patients over five years. The state said Coplin:
- [prescribed] Oxycodone, OxyContin, Percocet, Fentanyl, and other CDS to patients without conducting any physical examinations or conducting any tests to determine the cause of their complaints of pain;
- [failed] to employ “even the most rudimentary safeguards” necessary to prevent abuse and/or diversion of the CDS he prescribed;
- [prescribed] CDS to two individuals who informed him they were illegally selling or trading the drugs;
- [prescribed] various adjuvant medications, in inappropriate dosages, and without regard to their interaction with opioid medications; and
- [pre-signed] his prescription pad and allowing his staff to complete prescriptions for CDS in his absence.
While the Board’s written decision from Aug. 22 agreed that Coplin engaged in reckless and careless conduct, it decided against suspending his license. Coplin is not allowed to prescribe, dispense or administer CDS; he must transfer patients who require those medications for treatment.
The doctor has no prior disciplinary history with the Board.