CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - An internal medicine specialist who admitted in federal court to selling tens of thousands of prescriptions over the internet to patients he'd never met is now practicing near Governor's Hill and at an urgent care center in Florence, Kentucky, a FOX19 investigation has exclusively found.
Dr. Subramanya K. Prasad was swept-up in a federal investigation centered in California and arrested while taking part in an unpaid fellowship at the famed Cleveland Clinic, court records and medical board documents show.
"At times, Dr. Prasad approved more than 1,000 orders in a day and spent fewer than 5 seconds on each customer order," according to an assistant attorney general in Ohio who presented the information to the state's medical board in April 2011.
According to the minutes of the meeting, there was a heated debate among members of the board about whether to allow Dr. Prasad to resume practicing medicine in Ohio. Some members of the board argued society will never know if Dr. Prasad's approval of prescriptions over the internet led to people getting hurt or even dying. Others suggested a lifetime ban on practicing medicine was too harsh and noted Kentucky's medical board had already given Dr. Prasad his license back after he'd cooperated with prosecutors.
"Dr. Prasad stated that he was extremely naïve and stupid to have believed that an advertisement in the New England Journal of Medicine must be legitimate," the board minutes note.
Dr. Prasad told the board it was through an ad in the medical journal that he got connected with the company that paid him for approving prescriptions for online customers.
FOX19 has learned that Dr. Prasad is now practicing in a medical office at 8837 Chapel Square Drive in Cincinnati as well as an urgent care center at 8814 Bankers Street in Florence. When FOX19 visited the offices, we were told Dr. Prasad was not working. We also e-mailed the attorney who represented Dr. Prasad before Ohio's medical board but have not heard back.
While going through several years of medical board records in Ohio and Kentucky, we learned that dozens of physicians are also battling addictions.
"The truth of the matter is, I was one myself many years ago," said Dr. Greg Jones of Louisville.
He battled an addiction to alcohol before becoming sober 17 ½ years ago. He now runs the organization that helped him get his life back on-track, the Kentucky Physicians Health Foundation. In Kentucky, if an addiction or mental health issue impacts a physician's ability to practice medicine, the state's medical board will send you to the foundation for help. Dr. Jones and his team then arrange for in-patient treatment at facilities that cater to doctors and other professionals.
"And the good news is, it really doesn't matter why they're there," said Dr. Jones. "If they will do the things that we ask of them, we'll get just as good a result of those (who are) going through the motions to save their skin and those who are genuinely at that point ready to make changes."
The long-term rates of success are about the same for both categories of doctors after treatment, he said, pointing to data from medical malpractice insurance companies that cover physicians with addiction issues.
Usually, medical boards place a doctor on probation for about five years after he or she has been suspended due to drug or alcohol abuse. However, new patients may never know. There is no requirement in Ohio or Kentucky to notify patients that you're practicing under probation.
FOX19 asked the executive director of the State Medical Board of Ohio, Aaron Haslam, about this. He pointed out that disciplinary actions against doctors are posted on the board's website and media organizations are notified.
"We notify peers, as well, other physicians," he said, "through what we call our e-blast and e-mails to our licensees."
For his part, Dr. Jones does not believe doctors should be required to notify patients.
"I think that we still ought to allow people to take care of their health," said Dr. Jones, "and I will continue to come back and say this is a health problem. It's a disease."
Personally, though, he's open about his own struggles.
"I will tell you that many physicians in recovery, like myself, do make sure that people know who and what we are and what we do to take care of ourselves," he said. "Sometimes that's received very well and favorably. And sometimes it causes people to change their decisions. And I'm ok with that."
For help battling an addiction or dealing with a mental health issue, you may call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
To look-up details about whether a physician has ever been disciplined, click here for Ohio doctors and click here for physicians in Kentucky. If your doctor is in Indiana click here. Not all of the details about what happened are provided online, however. So if you need more information, contact the medical board for your state and tell them you're requesting copies of documents about that doctor through your state's open records law.