Former physician gets probation for selling drug samples

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For repackaging and selling drug samples that were supposed to be free, former physician Douglas Dunham was sentenced Friday to probation, on top of the one month of boredom he has already endured.

"I've been used to being in the office, caring for patients," said Dunham, 77, of McDonald, after explaining to U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab that life since he surrendered his medical license has been dull and depressing. "I'm going to miss my practice, of course. I lived to practice."

Before Dunham worked as the little town's family practitioner, even making house calls, he served his country, rising to the rank of brigadier general and state surgeon for the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, said defense attorney Clark Mitchell.

Starting in 2005, though, Dunham started opening the samples of high blood pressure medications Benicar, Diovan and Tribenzor, of stomach acid remedy Dexilant and of cholesterol reducer Crestor, according to the federal charge against him.

According to Mr. Mitchell, Dunham repackaged the samples for patients who had trouble handling their medications, and charged $15 to $20 for the labor, usually receiving it in cash.

"Pharmaceutical sales representatives routinely provided defendant with free samples of prescription drugs," Judge Schwab said. "Defendant knew it was illegal to sell those drug samples."

So why did he sell them? "I can only imagine, greed," said assistant U.S. attorney Tonya Sulia Goodman. "He ended up harming the people he was supposed to be helping the most -- his patients."

In November, Dunham pleaded guilty to a single count of unlawful sale of pharmaceutical drug samples, a felony.

Federal sentencing guidelines suggested a punishment ranging from probation to six months in prison. Judge Schwab sentenced Dunham to a year of probation, 200 hours of community service and a $5,000 fine.

Dunham asked if he had to stay in Western Pennsylvania, as is sometimes required of probationers, or if he could travel to his second home in Arizona and his cabin in Canada. The judge said the former doctor could travel, with the permission of his probation officer.


Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542. Twitter: @richelord. First Published March 7, 2014 9:35 AM

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