Disgraced Tennessee Doctors Conspired to Sell Opioids Prescriptions for $300 Each, State Records Say
State officials have suspended the medical licenses of two troubled East Tennessee doctors who conspired to sell opioid painkillers and anxiety medication, even though one of the doctors had already lost his ability to prescribe addictive medications.
Dr. Charles Brooks, of Maryville, and Dr. Michael Lapaglia, of Knoxville, both had their licenses suspended by a vote of the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners on Wednesday.
Lapaglia already pleaded guilty to federal drug crimes and awaits sentencing. Brooks, who does not appear to have been charged criminally, was identified as Lapaglia’s accomplice for the first time in state documents made public this week.
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According to those documents, Brooks and LaPaglia worked together to sell prescriptions through L & B Healthcare, a company they created last year. Brooks would pre-sign prescription slips and give them to LaPaglia, who was barred from prescribing serious medications due to a drug abuse case in 2014.
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LaPaglia would then meet patients at his home or their homes — and at least once in a McDonald’s parking lot — to write prescriptions for opioids and benzodiazepines with the pre-signed slips, state documents said. Both of these drugs are addictive and can be dangerous if abused, especially if mixed.
Patients would pay LaPaglia $300 a month for the prescriptions, and half of the money would go to Brooks, the documents stated.
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Brooks’ medical license was previously put on probation in 2012 after he admitted he had a sexual relationship with a patient, and the patient became suicidal when the relationship ended.
LaPaglia agreed to give up his ability to write prescriptions for addictive drugs in 2014 after he was caught with dozens of jars of marijuana and a large number of prescription pills, including oxycodone, in his home, according to prior reporting by The Knoxville News Sentinel. Medical discipline records state that Lapaglia also had 52 tablets of diazepam, also known as Valium, and admitted he was addicted to the drugs.
LaPaglia previously made headlines in 2010 when he assisted police by using medication to paralyze two men so investigators could search their rectums for drugs. A federal judge later said the searches were “shocking to the conscience” and violated the constitutional rights of both suspects.
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Brett Kelman is the health care reporter for The Tennessean. He can be reached at 615-259-8287 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @brettkelman.