Overprescribing lands docs in prison

By Pat Sunderland


Dr. Sam Jahani, 52, faces up to four years in prison after pleading guilty to a single charge of conspiracy (controlled substance violations, health care fraud violations and/or money laundering violations).

Jahani was initially charged with multiple, individual counts of those numerous violations, and was accused of causing the deaths of three patients through the practice of overprescribing. He will be sentenced in U.S. District Court on Feb. 8. The federal government is recommending two years' imprisonment.

The plea agreement lays out the government's case:

Dr. Jahani opened a medical office in Delta in 2003, and an urgent care clinic in Montrose in 2005. As the patient base grew, Dr. Jahani expanded his business. In November 2007, he hired Dr. Eric Peper.

Many patients traveled from Grand Junction to Delta to obtain, and were prescribed, scheduled controlled substances, so Dr. Jahani opened a third clinic in Grand Junction in November 2008. The clinics closed shortly after search warrants were served on the businesses and residences of Drs. Jahani and Peper on Oct. 14, 2009.

Prior to obtaining the search warrants, federal agents conducted numerous interviews of health care professionals, former employees, patients and family members. Pharmacists reported that Drs. Jahani and Peper were prescribing large quantities of powerful controlled substances to patients. Some pharmacists indicated they could not keep controlled drugs such as oxycodone in stock because of the demand by Jahani and Peper patients. In addition, many of these patients were paying cash for their prescriptions. Some pharmacists refused to fill the prescriptions; others called the doctors to question prescriptions.

Emergency department personnel and jail doctors reported numerous Jahani and Peper patients on high levels of narcotics, making it difficult to treat them. Members of the community complained to law enforcement that their loved ones were being overprescribed and could not function due to prescriptions obtained from Drs. Jahani and Peper.

A Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) investigation concluded that Dr. Jahani and Dr. Peper's actions were

inconsistent with the usual course of medical practice. Specifically, patient history was scant, physical exams were rarely conducted, and there was a lack of individualized treatment planning. Instead, treatment typically involved the prescribing of a fixed set of controlled drugs, including Oxycodone, hydrocodone or fentanyl. The DEA's medical expert used the word "relentless" to describe the doctors' escalating rate of prescribing controlled drugs. Analysis of patient records revealed three patients, while suffering legitimate health issues, ultimately died of poly drug overdose.

Financial records revealed Dr. Jahani's debts outpaced his income each year. To cover the cost of clinic operations, build a home in Montrose and purchase multiple vehicles, Dr. Jahani billed Medicare, Medicaid and Rocky Mountain Health Plans for office visits associated with the act of prescribing the narcotics. The DEA expert determined there was no legitimate medical purpose or medical need in many of the patient files he analyzed.

Dr. Peper entered a guilty plea in July. His sentencing his scheduled for Feb. 24.