COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho (KIFI) – Dr. Eric Benson, an internist practicing medicine in Post Falls, Idaho, agreed to pay $110,000 to resolve allegations that he unlawfully prescribed opioids and other controlled substances to patients between 2014-2021.
The settlement, which was based in part on Dr. Benson’s ability to pay, also restricts the doctor’s capacity to take on new patients already being prescribed opioids.
According to the settlement agreement, the government alleged that Dr. Benson wrote prescriptions that lacked a legitimate medical purpose and were issued outside the usual course of professional practice in violation of the Controlled Substances Act. The government also alleged that Dr. Benson’s unlawful prescriptions caused the presentation of false claims for prescription drug benefits to Medicare and Medicaid in violation of the False Claims Act.
“Opioid addiction and dependence often begin with doctors prescribing excessive amounts of pain killers to patients who want them, but who do not need them,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Rafael M. Gonzalez, Jr., who announced the settlement. “Medical professionals must know that they are civilly accountable under the Controlled Substances Act when they write prescriptions that lack a legitimate medical purpose. This settlement demonstrates our commitment to an all-of-community approach to addressing the opioid crisis.”
“The allegations in this matter describe an egregious affront to patient safety and a blatant disregard for the intended purpose of Medicare and Medicaid funds,” stated Steven J. Ryan, Special Agent in Charge with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG). “In coordination with our law enforcement partners, HHS-OIG ardently pursues medical providers who shirk their duties to provide appropriate patient care and to support HHS program integrity.”
“Doctor Benson’s irresponsible prescribing habits violate federal law, breach his medical license, and present a clear danger to our nation’s health and security,” said Frank A. Tarentino III, Special Agent-in-Charge of DEA’s Seattle Field Division. “Dr. Benson’s behavior is also a violation of public trust, and contributes to the many complexities fueling the opioid epidemic and endangering the citizens of Idaho. We continue to work with our law enforcement partners in opioid overdose prevention and awareness, while relentlessly pursuing those that overprescribe opioids.”
This matter was investigated jointly by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General, with additional assistance provided by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Idaho Board of Pharmacy.