California physicians need to understand the ramifications
of prescribing medication to patients who may not need them. This is true
even if the physician is openly and publicly conducting medical examinations of
the patient, and thereby giving the impression that the physician has nothing
to hide and is prescribing the medication to patients with legitimate
A Southern California physician, named Alvin Ming-Czech Yee,
recently agreed to plead guilty to charges of illegally prescribing drugs to
patients with whom he frequently conducted nightly meetings in Starbucks
stores. In fact, Dr. Yee met with almost a dozen people almost every
evening between 7 and 11 pm in Starbucks stores throughout Orange County.
During the meetings, Dr. Yee would perform short examinations, even checking
the pulse and blood pressure of patients. One patient—an undercover DEA
agent—quoted Dr. Yee as saying: "Bet you never had your blood pressure
taken in a Starbucks before."
Federal officials began to suspect wrongdoing when one of
Dr. Yee's patients, a 21-year-old woman, died of a drug overdose after he
prescribed drugs for her. Further investigation revealed other suspicious
facts: approximately one-third of Dr. Yee's patients were 25 or younger; Dr.
Yee was charging patients $600 per meeting; Dr. Yee was prescribing highly
abused drugs such as OxyContin, Vicodin, Xanax, and Adderall; Dr. Yee's name
was associated with several other overdose deaths under investigation; and investigators
seized large quantities of commonly abused drugs from drug dealers in Seattle,
Phoenix, and Detroit whose prescriptions were linked to Dr. Yee.
These facts, coupled with the unusual setting of his nightly
visits, led federal prosecutors to conclude that Dr. Yee was illegally selling
prescriptions to patients with no legitimate need for them. The
government's medical expert, who reviewed Dr. Yee's practice of performing
cursory examinations in Starbucks stores, called it, "a front for drug dealing."
Dr. Yee will likely spend the next 8 to 10 years in prison for his
actions. Given the strict consequences, physicians need to be sure they
are prescribing medication to patient's who really need them and avoid
scenarios that might be perceived as “a front for drug dealing.”
By Pamela Tahim