California Doctor Cleared on Over-Prescribing Charges

A Shasta County Superior Court jury in California has acquitted Dr. Frank Fisher of trying to defraud the state’s Medi-Cal system, in a high-profile case that examined the extent to which doctors are allowed to treat patients with chronic pain, the San Francisco Chronicle reported May 20.

Fisher, 50, also faced multiple counts of murder and other felony charges that were later dropped.

In 1999, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer shut down Fisher’s clinic, saying he was part of “a highly sophisticated drug-dealing operation” that was linked to the overdose deaths of at least three patients, the addiction of hundreds of people, and defrauding Medi-Cal out of $2 million.

“I feel a profound sense of relief,” Fisher said. He maintained during the trial that prosecutors singled him out because he was among the few doctors who was not afraid to prescribe high doses of narcotics, including the controversial OxyContin.

“The part of this story that’s always missing is the suffering of the patients I was treating,” Fisher said. “For my patients, my arrest was an unmitigated disaster. Many of them survived, but many of them not well. A lot of them look like they’ve aged 20 years.”

Fisher is unable to practice medicine because a complaint before the state Medical Board associated with the criminal accusations is still pending. Fisher also faces civil lawsuits brought by relatives of patients who died from overdoses of the painkillers he prescribed.