Dr. Alen Salerian, Well-Known D.C. Psychiatrist, Invites Public Debate On Treatment Of Patients With Mental And Physical Pain

The following issued by Sanford Heisler, LLP, counsel for Dr. Salerian

Jul 01, 2013, 17:09 ET from Sanford Heisler, LLP

WASHINGTON, July 1, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The District of Columbia Board of Medicine today published an Opinion revoking the medical license of a well-known psychiatrist, Dr. Alen J. Salerian.  The Board has determined that Dr. Salerian's prescriptions of certain narcotics in certain dosages fell outside the relevant standard of care. 

David Sanford of Sanford Heisler, LLP in Washington, D.C., said that "Dr. Salerian will appeal the Board of Medicine decision and we are confident that the D.C. Court of Appeals will overturn it."

Dr. Salerian has been a tireless advocate during his nearly 40-year career for improving the quality of life for his mental health and pain patients.  Dr. Salerian received his license to practice medicine in the District in 1974, completing his psychiatric residency as Chief Resident at GW in 1976 and serving as an Assistant Clinical Professor at GW for 26 years.  Dr. Salerian also worked at the Psychiatric Institute of Washington as the Chair of the Patient Care Evaluation Committee; as an Associate Medical Director; and as investigator for the Clinical Trial Unit.  Most recently, Dr. Salerian founded and practiced as a psychiatrist at the Salerian Center for Neuroscience and Pain to treat those with pain and psychiatric illnesses.

Dr. Salerian founded the non-profit Doctors for Equal Rights for People with Mental and Physical Pain.  Dr. Salerian also has been a reviewer of pain issues for the New England Journal of Medicine; an opinion leader for the FDA; a consultant to the FBI in numerous matters; a leader in performing transcranial magnetic stimulation; and a pioneer in neuroscience with scholarly contributions in peer reviewed journals.  Dr. Salerian has been at the forefront in discoveries relating to Alzheimer's and depression.

Dr. Salerian is a humanitarian who has provided medical services for free or for a greatly reduced fee to low income patients and has addressed pain and mental health issues for patients in low-income areas like Southwest Virginia.

DEA Raid of Dr. Salerian's Home and Office

In March 2011, the DEA raided Dr. Salerian's office and home.  During these raids, Dr. Salerian's wife and daughter were shackled and restrained for hours in violation of their constitutional rights.  Dr. Salerian's rights were violated as well;  and he alleges that he was not permitted to consult his attorneys and his property, including patients' medical records and his bank accounts and cars, were seized without ever being returned.  

This experience has caused major trauma and damage to Dr. Salerian's family and to his professional and public reputation.  His family is suffering physically and emotionally from the stress of these past two years. 

As a result of the government investigation, Dr. Salerian's patients were unable to fill their prescriptions at national pharmacy chains.  During the raid of Dr. Salerian's office, his patients were subjected to indignities and violations of their privacy.  Patients consequently suffered and felt humiliated, unable to acquire vitally needed medication to treat pain and mental illness.  As a consequence of the government raid, investigation, and hostilities directed to Dr. Salerian's patients, Dr. Salerian has shut down his practice and filed for bankruptcy protection.

Dr. Salerian commented, "I believe in the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship.  Physical and mental pain patients should not be treated as second-class citizens." 

Four Aspects of This Story that Demand Public Attention and Comment

1.      Misuse of Drug Kingpin Statute

First, Dr. Salerian's assets were seized under a federal statute, The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 ("CCCA").  The CCCA was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan.  The goal of the CCCA was to disable drug-trafficking organizations with criminal forfeiture being used as a weapon to pursue powerful, large-scale,  and violent drug traffickers.  The CCCA armed the government with a tool designed to dismantle the economic power base of criminal organizations.  As noted by then-Senator Al D'Amato, "The goal of our legislation . . . is nothing less than stripping the drug kingpins of their drug-profit empires."  The goal was certainly not to target well-respected practicing psychiatrists treating pain and mental health patients. 

2.     Nationally Distinguished Experts Support Dr. Salerian

Second, two nationally distinguished experts, Dr. J. Alexander Bodkin and Dr. Richard Bonfiglio, testified on behalf of Dr. Salerian. Both testified that Dr. Salerian's methods met the standard of care for a psychiatrist treating patients for pain.  Dr. Bodkin teaches psychopharmacology at Harvard Medical School and has been the Head of the Ethics Committee of Harvard's teaching hospital for 15 years.  Dr. Bonfiglio is board certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation and has practiced in those fields for 31 years; is a faculty member at Temple Medical School; has written extensively in the field of pain management; and has qualified as an expert approximately 300 times. 

In stark contrast, the government's experts were not qualified to offer an opinion regarding Dr. Salerian's prescription practices.  Dr. Robert Dupont does not specialize in treating depression or pain management, and he has not done any clinical trials relating to pain.  Dr. Rafael Miguel is an anesthesiologist.  He is neither a psychiatrist, nor an addiction expert, nor an expert on depression.  Despite Dr. Bodkin's and Dr. Bonfiglio's impressive and unchallenged credentials, the Board credited the Government's experts and gave no credence to the actual subject matter experts who testified.

3.     Governmental Intrusion into the Sanctity of the Doctor-Patient Relationship

Third, the Board reached its conclusion after obtaining confidential medical information without the knowledge or consent of many of those patients.  Dr. Salerian has the highest regard for the Hippocratic Oath, which holds, in part, that doctors are to "respect the privacy of [their] patients, for their problems are not disclosed to [the doctor] that the world may know."  In tension with the basic principle governing doctors, the government reviewed countless patient files and, to this day, many of those patients are unaware of this governmental intrusion.

4.     Possible Criminal Negligence by the D.C. Department of Health

Fourth, restricting Dr. Salerian's privileges to prescribe narcotics to pain and mental health patients without concurrently instituting or overseeing a phased withdrawal program for the patients led to the disruption of responsible patient care.  That disruption resulted in catastrophic consequences for many of Dr. Salerian's patients. 

Dr. Salerian alerted the government to potential catastrophic consequences at the National Press Club in October 2012.  An NIH study served as a basis for those same concerns.  The government should investigate whether, in fact, the D.C. Department of Health engaged in criminal negligence by not heeding the warnings of Dr. Salerian and the NIH. 

Dr. Salerian concluded:  "The right of patients to be treated with dignity, care, and compassion is more important than my own career."

Media Contact: Jamie Moss, newsPRos, 1-201-493-1027, jamie@newspros.com

SOURCE Sanford Heisler, LLP