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3 ET Doctors Have Licenses Placed on Probation, State Says

Three Upper East Tennessee doctors have had their licenses put on probation, said the Tennessee Department of Health.

One, psychiatrist Dr. Dan Nicolau of Johnson City, prescribed narcotics to a woman “not pursuant to a doctor-patient relationship” and entered her home uninvited, according to state records.

Another, Dr. David Leslie Merrifield Jr. of Jonesborough, a family practitioner, had a yearlong relationship with a patient for whom he wrote 10 prescriptions for Subutex without requiring a drug screen. State records also say he hired the patient, giving the patient an allowance, credit card and 2015 Jeep Compass, all while engaged in a sexual relationship with the patient.

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According to the state, Merrifield wrote 14 prescriptions — including diazepam, clonazepam and Adderall — without examining patients, keeping medical records or creating treatment plans. He wrote 35 prescriptions for Suboxone for a single patient for whom he had no medical record, drug screen or treatment plan; five prescriptions including Subutex and clonazepam to another patient with no medical record, drug screen or treatment plan; and 60 prescriptions — 30 of which were Subutex — to a third patient who hadn’t been screened for drugs. In addition, the state said, he met patients and wrote prescriptions for Suboxone at their homes, McDonald’s and Burger King, where he didn’t have access to their drug test results and medical records, and he failed to report his own DUI charge to the state.

U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee Nancy Stallard Harr announces the district's participation in the Department of Justice's Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit. Saul Young/News Sentinel

A third, Dr. Michael Sanders Wysor, a general practitioner in Gray, tried to force a patient to kiss him during an office visit, state records said. The state disciplined him for “sexual harassment,” which includes “unwelcome sexual advances” and “requests for sexual favors.”

Wysor had been disciplined in 2005, where he was medical director of the New Image Weight Loss Clinic in Abingdon, Va. There, he also let unlicensed individuals examine patients, inject vitamin B-12, and sell and dispense multivitamins and Schedule III and IV weight-control drugs, including phentermine/Adipex; presigned blank prescription forms which his office staff used “at their discretion”; and let the clinic use his DEA registration number for purchasing, dispensing and selling controlled substances without a Virginia license. In addition, he incorrectly stored and labeled drugs and didn’t have required information on his prescription pads, and the state documented 21 patients ranging in age from 24 to 75 to whom he prescribed weight-loss drugs without taking into account their other health problems or warning them of the risks.

All three physicians waived their rights to challenge or contest the decisions of the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners, the state board responsible for disciplining doctors.

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Nicolau will pay $2,000 in civil penalties, in addition to the costs of prosecuting his case, and will be on probation for two years, starting this month.

Merrifield will be on probation for five years and pay his court costs and $2,500 in civil penalties. He can’t serve as a supervising physician or prescribe any product — including Suboxone — containing buprenorphine during probation, and he will be will be monitored and randomly screened for alcohol and other drugs.

Wysor will be on probation for five years and pay a $500 civil penalty. The Tennessee Medical Foundation will evaluate him, he can’t be a supervising physician, and he is required to complete a state-approved course on patient-doctor boundaries.

Statewide, the board disciplined 13 doctors last month.

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