Neurosurgeon faces murder charges in California over opioid over-prescription: 4 details

Written by Laura Dyrda | August 15, 2019 | Print  |

Thomas Keller, MD, a California-based neurosurgeon, has been charged with second degree murder for allegedly writing non-medically necessary opioid prescriptions from 2011 to 2017.

Four things to know:

1. The California Attorney General's office reported Dr. Keller was arrested and arraigned in connection with five patient deaths after he prescribed them "dangerously high levels of addictive opioids and narcotics." He allegedly prescribed Vicodin, oxycodone, OxyContin, Percocet and morphine outside acceptable levels for clinical practice.

2. Dr. Keller faces second-degree murder charges related to nine patients and felony elder abuse charges connected with five patient deaths. He is in custody, and his bail review is scheduled for Aug. 20.

3. A complaint filed in the Superior Court for Santa Rosa County alleges Dr. Keller prescribed maximum dosages of 180 to 300 pills per prescription, which exceeds the 50 mg Morphine Equivalent Dosage standard set by the CDC. He received red flag warnings from pharmacies and insurance companies, but continued to prescribe the high level of dosages.

4. The California Department of Justice's Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse conducted an investigation that sparked this case.

More articles on spine surgeons:
5 plead guilty in $80M healthcare fraud scheme: 8 things to know
Laser Spine Institute co-founders now owe ex-business partner $300M+, judge rules
Mayfield Brain & Spine, St. Elizabeth Healthcare partner to expand neurosurgical care

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