Doctor says he's 'poster child' in misguided war on pain pills
May 23, 2016 7:28 AM
Jeffrey Bado, 60, of Philadelphia, faces a September trial on a 322-count federal indictment related to his prescriptions of oxycodone and other drugs.
By Rich Lord / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
While the federal government considers Jeffrey Bado a drug dealer, he’s arguing in court that he’s just a sacrificial lamb in an irrational drug war.
Mr. Bado, 60, is scheduled for trial in September on a 322-count federal indictment that portrayed him as a wellspring of pills for a voracious Philadelphia black market. From 2010 through 2012, he prescribed more than 3 million oxycodone pills, according to Board of Medicine documents, making him the fourth largest prescriber of that drug in the United States, outside of hospitals and other large facilities.
“As one of the largest prescribers of opiates in the commonwealth, I’m a poster child,” said Mr. Bado, who surrendered his medical license in 2013.
In a rare move for a doctor awaiting trial, he spoke with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, explaining the mindset and practices that made him a top target in the federal fight against pill diversion.
A physician for a quarter century, he worked for a practice that specialized in spinal blocks, but wasn’t impressed with the results. “It demonstrated for me the futility and the relatively ineffective utility of those procedures for chronic, intractable pain,” he said, so he “began to ramp up the pharmacologic end of it.”
Opioids can allow people who are in pain to function, he said. “As you increase the dose, patients get the reduction in pain,” he said. “What does come into play, of course, is the second aspect of this, which is tolerance” for the medication.
The FBI, though, perceived a trail of addictions and at least one death. A federal prosecutor wrote that the doctor didn't evaluate patient problems, but “instead ‘medicated’ all claims of pain with the same opioid bandage, a prescription for high quantity and doses of oxycodone and/or methadone.”
Patients lined up, even after Dr. Bado stopped taking insurance, instead charging $800 for an initial visit and $400 for follow-ups, according to the prosecution. He was ejected from Roxborough Hospital in 2011, the prosecutor wrote, because his patients “were disruptive, spilled over into the hallways obstructing other business, and ... often ended up in the ER trying to get pain medicine.”
He moved his practice and, he said, ramped up measures to ensure that patients were using his prescriptions as directed.
He knew that a network of criminals had taken to recruiting people to work doctors for prescriptions, which could then be sold, he said. So he created a security team to investigate.
His “security chief,” though, was a patient who got “pills just for the asking,” and sold most of them, according to the prosecutor. The security chief became an FBI informant, and, at the agency’s direction, hired an undercover agent as his assistant.
The doctor began to compel patients to take drug tests. Prosecutors, though, claim that he “ignored” the results when they suggested that patients might be selling, rather than taking, their pills, or mixing them with street drugs.
Joseph Armstrong started treatment with the doctor for anxiety at age 25 and was prescribed Xanax, then Vicodin and then Percocet for back pain, the prosecutor wrote. Dr. Bado advanced him to “much higher doses of oxycodone,” and added methadone to the mix. The patient died in 2011, his body a stew of prescription drugs and cocaine. Dr. Bado has argued that the illegal drug was at fault.
His attorney, Richard Maurer, said that prosecuting an aging former physician won’t stop addiction. “I don’t think there’s anything about this prosecution that’s about solving a problem.”
Rich Lord: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1542. Twitter @richelord