Doctor’s prescribing practices connected to numerous deaths; sentence is four times the maximum recommended by federal guidelines

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. –United States Attorney Booth  Goodwin today announced that a Cabell County doctor was sentenced to two years  in prison for violating federal drug control laws. Dr. Anita Dawson, 55, of  Milton, W.Va., previously pleaded guilty in July to aiding and abetting the  illegal acquisition of prescription drugs by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery,  deception and subterfuge. The sentence is four times the maximum sentence  recommended under federal sentencing guidelines, which called for a sentence of  zero to six months.

Dawson admitted that from July 2006 until May 21,  2009, she wrote prescriptions for addictive pain medications to an individual  identified by the initials E.B.  Dawson admitted she prescribed a total of  nearly 6,000 pills containing oxycodone and more than 220 pills for the  painkiller Endocet.   Dawson further admitted that at the time she  wrote the prescriptions for E.B., she knew that the patient was seeking pain medication  for an addiction and other inappropriate reasons.     

Dawson and E.B. entered into a pain management  agreement that required the patient to submit to drug tests and pill  counts.  Despite E.B.’s repeated violations of the pain management agreement,  Dawson admitted she continued to prescribe pain medication. 

At today’s sentencing hearing, United States  District Judge Robert C. Chambers heard from family members of three people  killed in 2009 when their vehicle was hit by another vehicle driven by a  patient of Dawson’s. The patient was addicted to prescription drugs and was  under the influence of prescription medication at the time of the crash. In  imposing Dawson’s sentence, Judge Chambers also noted that nine other patients  of Dawson’s had died of prescription drug overdoses.

“It’s hard to put into words the devastating impact  of this defendant’s crimes,” said U.S. Attorney Goodwin. “My heart goes out to  the families who spoke at today’s hearing and to everyone who lost a loved one  because of Dr. Dawson. Judge Chambers was right: This woman’s behavior is  shocking, and this case should send a message to other doctors who abuse their  prescription power.”

“The vast  majority of physicians prescribe responsibly,” Goodwin continued, “but even a  handful of bad doctors can flood our communities with illegal pills. Every time  we put a law-breaking doctor out of business, it’s a big step toward getting  this problem under control.”

In sentencing Dawson, Judge Chambers said that  doctors who violate prescription laws need to be held accountable for their  role in the “horrible problem” of prescription drug abuse. Judge Chambers said  he intended the sentence to send a warning to doctors that they will be held  accountable for their prescribing practices.

Dawson’s medical license was suspended by the West  Virginia Board of Osteopathy in April 2010, on the same day federal and state  investigators executed a search warrant at her Milton office. Following the  search and the suspension of her medical license, Dawson voluntarily gave up  her license permanently.

This case was prosecuted as part of an ongoing  effort led by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of  West Virginia to combat the illicit sale and misuse of prescription  drugs.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office, joined by federal, state and local law  enforcement agencies, is committed to aggressively pursuing and shutting down  illegal pill trafficking, eliminating open air drug markets, and curtailing the  spread of opiate painkillers in communities across the Southern District. 

The investigation was conducted by the Federal  Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services  Office of Inspector General, and the Drug Enforcement Administration, with  assistance from the West Virginia State Police and the Cabell County Sheriff’s  Office.  Assistant United States Attorney Steven Loew handled the  prosecution. 

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