The Arizona Medical Board has suspended a Scottsdale doctor suspected of writing thousands of illegal prescriptions for human growth hormones and other controlled drugs, many of which were reportedly sold through Internet pharmacies.
The board voted unanimously Aug. 30 to suspend Dr. David A. Wilbirt’s license, said Roger Downey, an agency spokesman. The discipline was for "unprofessional conduct."
Federal investigators have investigated Wilbirt, 60, for four years and identified him as a key player in an online prescription drug ring that spans the nation, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
A search warrant affidavit shows that between November and April, he wrote
3,879 prescriptions for controlled drugs — more than any other Arizona physician. The federal investigation is ongoing and Wilbirt does not now face any criminal charges, Ramona Sanchez, a DEA spokeswoman, said Thursday.
Wilbirt, whose practice is in downtown Scottsdale, must be granted a hearing in which he can fight his suspension, Downey said, before the state can consider revoking his license. Wilbirt did not return calls to his office Thursday.
Records show that the medical board has opened four inquiries into complaints from pharmacists and others alleging that Wilbirt was illegally writing prescriptions for controlled drugs during the past two years.
The board acted quickly to halt Wilbirt’s work, Downey said.
"We didn’t wait until the next board meeting," he said. "We felt it was imperative that the board take immediate action on a situation that may be an imminent threat to the public safety."
Records show concerns about Wilbirt’s practice made their way to state investigators two years ago. The board’s first investigation was launched in August 2003, when a pharmacist alerted the agency that Wilbirt had prescribed a patient excessive amounts of Oxy-Contin and Norco, records show.
OxyContin is a pain relief drug, often prescribed to cancer patients, that is effective for several hours, said Richard Herrie, a University of Arizona pharmacy professor. Norco is a narcotic similar to Vicodin, he said.
State investigators found Wilbirt had done the same for another patient in July 2003, in one instance permitting the individual to acquire more than a thousand, 10 milligram Norco tablets in fewer than three months, records show.
Wilbirt suffered a stroke in February and the board prohibited him from practicing medicine. But on Aug. 22, Wilbirt called a pharmacist to submit a patient’s prescription for Xanax, an antidepressant, records show.
"The pharmacist noted suspicions about (the patient) and concern about drug-seeking behavior" and notified the board, records state.