Physician Sentenced to 5 Years for Trying to Help a Patient, Says AAPS

Sep 07, 2012, 12:42 ET from Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS)

TUCSON, Ariz., Sept. 7, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A casualty in the "War on Drugs" that has become a war on physicians, 52-year-old family physician John Anthony Gianoli, III, has been sentenced to 5 years (60 months) in federal prison for writing prescriptions for a controlled pain medication, although his sole intention was to help a patient.

Dr. Gianoli ran a small medical office in Florida. It was not a "pill mill" by any stretch of the imagination. He frequently used alternate methods such as yoga to treat pain, and was often able to wean patients off addicting medicines—as he did in the case of the undercover agent who was sent by the government to entrap him.

The agent posed as a patient, with fake medical records and stories that could fool even the most skeptical physician.

At trial the prosecution relied on tape recordings of only some of the visits between its fake patient and Dr. Gianoli. Even though the undercover agent had a recording device for his initial encounter with Dr. Gianoli, no recording for that all-important visit was ever made. It was alleged that no physical examination was performed, although one was documented in the medical record for that visit.

Perhaps for special effect with a future jury, the undercover agent even "sexed up" one of his conversations with the physician for the recording, by stating he gave some pills to his girlfriend in exchange for sex. This type of false sexual claim can obviously cloud and prejudice a jury's later consideration of the case, as it listens to the tape recording.

Dr. Gianoli testified at trial that he never believed that his medications were being diverted to someone else, and he did not receive any additional compensation for his prescribing oxycodone. He had even discharged the fake patient from his practice before he became aware it was all a ruse for prosecution.

The jury acquitted Dr. Gianoli on two counts of illegally prescribing medication, and convicted him on only one of five counts. But the Court handed down the draconian 5-year sentence anyway, and the prosecutor asked for much more.

If there were a real concern about prescriptions written by Dr. Gianoli or any other physician, then the DEA can easily revoke his authority to prescribe controlled substances, without wasting millions of dollars in taxpayer money on sting operations, trials, and lengthy sentences of good physicians who serve the public.

In the last 40 years the number of people imprisoned in the United States has grown by a shocking 700%, at a direct cost of more than $50 billion annually and a much higher indirect expense, with no discernible reduction in drug abuse. The government apparently prefers targeting physicians to pursuing real drug dealers.

"Abusive prosecutions like this one send the message that it is too dangerous to prescribe oxycodone or other controlled drugs," states Dr. Jane Orient, executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS). "Any patient, however compelling his story, could turn out to be a federal plant."

Dr. Gianoli loses his freedom, his ability to practice his vocation, his livelihood, his life savings, and his reputation. His patients lose a caring physician, and patients throughout the country may be sentenced to a lifetime of unremitting though treatable pain because physicians fear to prescribe for them.

The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) is a national organization representing physicians in all specialties, ( which was founded in 1943 to defend the sanctity of the patient-physician relationship.

SOURCE Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS)