A West Virginia physician faces up to 20 years in prison in the wake of his conviction by a federal jury for illegally distributing buprenorphine.
The jury convicted Sriramloo Kesari, MD, 78, of Charleston, for distributing buprenorphine outside the scope of medical practice, according to a US Department of Justice statement.
Investigators from the Drug Enforcement Administration presented evidence at the trial that Kesari, a general practitioner, operated a cash-only business selling buprenorphine prescriptions.
Federal prosecutors said that the physician signed prescriptions, which were then distributed by an employee in exchange for cash. Kesari was often absent, at times physically located in California, according to the federal government.
Prosecutors indicted the West Virginia physician in September 2019 as part of an “opioid strikeforce takedown” in Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia that resulted in charges against 13 individuals, including 11 physicians.
Kesari’s attorneys filed motions during the course of the lengthy case showing that psychiatric and neurological exams indicated that the physician was cognitively impaired.
Based on that evidence and the federal indictment, the West Virginia Board of Medicine suspended Kesari’s license in February 2020, stating that he is not “mentally and/or physically fit to practice medicine and surgery with reasonable skill and safety.”
Kesari was first licensed in West Virginia in 1979. In 1987, the Board of Medicine placed Kesari on a 3-year probation because of his failure to keep records for patients for whom he was prescribing controlled substances.
However, within a few months, the Board changed the probation order to allow Kesari to write prescriptions for schedule II and III substances in the Boone Hospital emergency room where he continued to work.
The physician had no other disciplinary actions until his license suspension, but the Board lists settlement of four malpractice cases and the dismissal of a fifth between 1986 and 2001.
Kesari is scheduled to be sentenced on August 25.
Alicia Ault is a Lutherville, Maryland-based freelance journalist whose work has appeared in publications including Smithsonian.com, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. You can find her on Twitter @aliciaault.
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