Medical License Previously Suspended for Doc Charged in Rx-Selling Plan

HARRISBURG – One of the doctors arrested in connection with a scheme to sell drugs for profit had his license to practice medicine suspended more than a decade ago after being diagnosed with a mental illness.

Dr. Michael Fuentes of Philipsburg had his license suspended on July 27, 1994, after four days of hearings with the state Board of Medicine. It was later reinstated on Sept. 27, 1996.

 
(Photo provided by the office of Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett)

As of Friday, his license was reported to be in good standing.

Fuentes was arrested Tuesday for allegedly working with Dr. Larry Adams, also of Philipsburg, to use a drug-addicted patient to sell prescription drugs on the street. In exchange for writing prescriptions for the man, he was to sell other prescription drugs and share profits with the two doctors. The man who sold the drugs later worked as a confidential informant with state police and the attorney general’s office. (For the full story on the arrest of Fuentes and Adams, read the previous GantDaily story here.)

Adams and Fuentes operate Mid-State Medical Services in Philipsburg. Both are free on unsecured bail.

In information obtained from the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs, Fuentes was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder by at least three physicians. According to the National Institute for Mental Health, bi-polar disorder is also known as manic-depressive illness. NIMH reports that the condition is “a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to function. Different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through, the symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. They can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide.”  The institute also noted that if bi-polar disorder is properly treated, patients can “lead full and productive lives.”

After Fuentes license suspension was lifted in 1996, he was placed on probation by the state Board of Medicine for three years. During that time, several conditions were placed on him.

The board ruled that the director of outpatient psychiatry at Allegheny General Hospital, Pittsburgh, be the supervisor of Fuentes’ care. The doctor at the time, Dr. P.V. Nickell, was to approve any work situation before Fuentes could return to work. Nickell was to report testing and medication levels, including lithium, every 60 days to the Bureau of Occupational Affair’s Professional Health Monitoring Program.

In addition, Fuentes’ supervisor was to report to the program every 60 days on his type of work, hours of work, attendance pattern, quality of work and interpersonal relationships with co-workers.

Nickell or his successor also had the ability to determine whether Fuentes presented a danger to public health and safety. In that instance, Fuentes’ license would have been suspended immediately.

For now, both Fuentes and Adams are scheduled for preliminary hearings Wednesday in Centre County Court. The men face a litany of charges that carry with them a substantial jail sentence.

During a news conference on the charges Tuesday, Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett said he could not speculate as to whether the charges filed against the men would result in action from either the state Board of Medicine.

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