A family practitioner based in Santa Barbara, California, is being charged with over prescribing pain killers to patients. The charges were revealed after the family of one of his patients decided to sue him for wrongful death after their son, Adam Montgomery, died. According to court affidavit, Dr. Julio Diaz was allegedly prescribing 24-year-old Montgomery an average of 63 prescription pills a day in the six weeks prior to his death.
Montgomery first sought Diaz's help after he sustained a back injury at work in 2008, at which time Diaz formulated an opiate plan for him. According to the Santa Barbara Independent, Montgomery was prescribed a total of 2,087 opiate pills during the last six weeks of his life.
According to Noozhawk, Diaz, who was arrested by the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency in January, faces several federal criminal complaint charges of distribution of controlled substances outside the scope of professional practice and without legitimate medical purpose. However, despite the charges, Diaz pleaded not guilty in federal court to 12 counts of over prescribing medication and is currently being held without bail. Four of the counts claim he prescribed medication to a patient younger than 21.
Diaz is currently facing a total sentence of 300 years, 20 of which would contribute to distribution counts and 40 years for each of the distribution charges to patients under the age of 21. This isn't the first time Diaz has been in the spotlight, according to the source. Although this is the first federal case he has been involved in, the California Medical Board considered revoking Diaz's medical license in March citing gross negligence among other offenses.
Diaz is also accused of trading sexual favors for prescriptions, according to the Santa Barbara Independent. Many of the pills Diaz prescribed ended up being sold on the streets, which allegedly led to many drug overdoses. The source reports that several medical professionals who worked with Diaz filed complaints with the board regarding his prescribing practices, but nothing was ever done. In October 2009, three doctors and one nurse drafted a letter to the board which went into detail regarding some of his patients' situations.
“We have seen several patients who became addicted to large doses of narcotics prescribed by Dr. Diaz, and know of one fatality associated with overdose of narcotics prescribed by Dr. Diaz. He is often described as a ‘Doctor you can get anything from’ by patients," they wrote, according to the Independent. "For example, a recent patient was prescribed 120 Oxycontin 40 mg tablets, 150 Methadone 10 mg tablets, 120 Fentanyl 2 mg tablets, and 120 Xanax 2 mg tablets in a single month for menstrual cramps. We have previously raised concerns with the Medical Board regarding Dr. Diaz’s prescribing practices but are corresponding again because we continue to see patients who have become addicted under his care.”
According to Noozhawk, Montgomery's family became worried after they watched his life changing drastically. They allegedly asked for Diaz to stop prescribing medications at such a high dosage and frequency; however, nothing changed. In addition to calling Diaz's office, the family complained to the medical board multiple times.
“The thing that struck me most about their case was to know that they tried to stop the prescription of these pain meds,” a legal expert said, according to Noozhawk.
Diaz is not set to go on trial until the fall, but Montgomery's family decided to file the wrongful death lawsuit in July to be in compliance with a statute of limitations.
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