A State College doctor is facing felony charges alleging he prescribed medication to an individual who was not his patient.
According to the criminal complaint filed by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, agents were advised by a CVS Pharmacy in State College that large amounts of controlled substances were being prescribed to a woman by Dr. Kenneth L. Cherry Jr., 58.
The woman had reportedly filled a prescription for 10 mg of oxycodone on May 11, 2016, the affidavit said, and two more prescriptions a few days later for another 50 mg of oxycodone.
Cherry is an orthopedic surgeon at University Orthopedics Center in State College, specializing in “total joint replacements of the hip and knee,” according to the center’s website. He is also listed as one of the UOC co-founders.
Agents obtained records for the woman’s prescriptions, the affidavit said, noting from November 2014 through May 2016, Cherry had written 63 prescriptions on both UOC and Mount Nittany Medical Center prescription papers. The prescriptions reportedly included oxycodone, Percocet, fentanyl, Adderall, Xanax and Ativan.
Agents met with the UOC office manager to verify the prescriptions, the affidavit said, and learned the woman was not one of Cherry’s patients. The manager noted that all visits or prescriptions were to be documented, yet no visits or prescriptions had reportedly been documented by Cherry for the woman.
The last documented prescription for the woman was February 2014 by a different doctor in the practice, according to the affidavit.
Agents met with Cherry in June 2016, the affidavit said, where he told them the woman had been to his practice because of back pain, despite indicating to agents that he specialized in hip and knee issues. He reportedly told agents she had trouble keeping appointments because she didn’t have insurance, so he didn’t document anything in the UOC system so she would not be billed.
He told agents she would call him when she needed her medications filled, the affidavit said, and realized in mid-to-late 2015 that she was taking too much but didn’t want to “abandon” her. He reportedly told her in fall 2015 that “things were getting out of control.”
Agents met with Cherry and his attorney in October 2016, the affidavit said, at which time he allegedly admitted to having a relationship with the woman. He reportedly told agents he believed the woman was “narcotics tolerant” and had believed he had been tapering her off the medications.
He also allegedly said he had done this with other people so they would avoid being billed, the affidavit said, including sending prescriptions to a friend’s daughter whowasn’t a patient of his. He reportedly said he believed he was doing a “good deed.”
Agents met with the woman in question Friday, the affidavit said, who told them she had seen other doctors at UOC, but never Cherry. She reportedly claimed to have a relationship with him and would have him write prescriptions for her without needing to come into the office.
She told agents the other doctors didn’t want to prescribe pain medications to her, the affidavit said, and she was addicted to narcotics because of the length of time she had been on pain medications. She reportedly said Cherry would leave prescriptions for her in his unlocked vehicle.
The woman also claimed she never had an issue with insurance and used insurance to pay for the prescriptions she had filled, the affidavit said. Records reportedly showed she used Geisinger insurance between November 2014 and May 2016 to fill the prescriptions.
Cherry was arraigned Friday before District Judge Thomas Jordan, according to court documents, and faces six felony charges of administering controlled substances out of the scope of a patient relationship and six misdemeanor charges of failure to keep records of a distributed controlled substance. Unsecured bail was set at $20,000.
A preliminary hearing is slated for July 19.
“I want to commend the CVS pharmacy in State College for coming forward with information about this case,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a news release regarding the investigation. “Everyone can and should play a role in helping us end the illegal practice of diverting prescription drugs from their intended use.”