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Area District Attorneys add Morristown doctor as defendant in opioid lawsuit

Zach Vance • Updated Jul 21, 2017 at 11:35 PM

The sheer magnitude of opioids dispensed by a Morristown doctor was reason enough for three local district attorneys general to add him to a sweeping lawsuit filed last month, Second Judicial District Attorney General Barry Staubus said.

On Wednesday, Staubus, First Judicial District Attorney Tony Clark and Third Judicial District Attorney Dan Armstrong amended their original lawsuit, which named three major opioid manufacturers, a Kingsport-based pain clinic and two local women the suit accuses of participating in illegal drug operations, to include Dr. Abdelrahman Hassabu Mohamed.

Mohamed is owner and operator of Hamblen Neuroscience Center, a neurology and pain management facility in Morristown.

“(We chose him) particularly because of the magnitude of his diversion and illegally selling of prescription drugs under the guise of a physician,” Staubus said. “That’s just another component ... it seems to us to make sense (to file the lawsuit) if there is a physician out there who’s making money and illicitly distributing these very powerful, dangerous drugs under the guise of legitimate medicine when they’re not.”

A representative of Hamblen Neuroscience Center said the facility is still operational and Mohamed does still practice medicine there. Mohamed’s Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners license is still active, according to the Tennessee Department of Health’s website, and shows no past disciplinary actions.

However, the lawsuit states Mohamed pleaded guilty in May to one count of mail fraud and 10 counts of health care fraud.

“As part of his guilty plea, defendant Addelrahman Hassabu Mohamed admitted that his customers were able to obtain prescriptions at HNC (Hamblen Neuroscience Center) for opioids without a legitimate medical purpose between Jan. 2, 2012, and Sept. 26, 2016,” the complaint read.

“During that timeframe, (Mohamed) admitted he scheduled only ‘pain-management’ appointments on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. (Mohamed) routinely scheduled 40, 50, 60 or more ‘pain-management appointments in a single day.”

For Mohamed to process so many patients in such a short span, the lawsuit alleges he used a scheme called a “drive-through.”

“(Mohamed) instructed his staff to have the customers stand in a single-file line outside his office, and then he would meet with each customer for approximately 1 to 2 minutes, with the office door open, while the next customer waited in line just outside the door,” the lawsuit reads.

Mohamed allegedly prescribed hydrocodone, oxycodone, fentanyl, morphine, Opana and Oxycontin to his customers.

“Just doing some research, we felt that this would be the proper defendant in this civil case. He had the attributes we were looking at,” Staubus said.

The lawsuit also details 10 specific instances during 2013 when Mohamed issued painkiller prescriptions to specific people, and at one point issued at least 35 prescriptions to one person within a one-year period.

“We’ve alleged that he used his position of being a physician to go way beyond the bounds of legitimate medicine to prescribe these opioids in a matter that’s very profitable for him, but very costly for hospitals, child care, health services and law enforcement,” Staubus said.

On June 13, Staubus, Clark and Armstrong made a joint announcement at Niswonger Children’s Hospital that they planned to file suit against:

• Purdue Pharma Inc., a New York corporation with the principal place of business in Connecticut;

• Mallinckrodt PLC, an Irish company with corporate headquarters in Staines-upon-Thames, United Kingdom;

• Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc., a Delaware corporation owned by Endo Health Solutions;

• Center Pointe Medical Clinic LLC, a Tennessee limited liability corporation located at 2020 Brookside Drive, Kingsport;

• Elizabeth Ann Bowers Campbell, of Johnson City, who the suit said participated in the illegal drug market for opioids;

• Pamela Moore, of Church Hill, who was also accused of participating in the illegal drug market for opioids.

A Johnson City Press investigation revealed that the three drug manufacturers listed in the suit distributed more than $100 million worth of painkillers in the Tri-Cities alone between 2012 and 2016.

The lawsuit was brought on behalf of the DAs and a “Baby Doe,” a legal term representing all newborns who are or have experienced withdrawal symptoms because of addicted mothers.

“We’re wanting to show that this problem is multi-faceted, it’s deep rooted and it’s not just one person or one type of entity or person that’s responsible,” Sullivan County’s top law enforcement official said.

While Staubus said his office isn’t planning to add any additional defendants to the suit, he didn’t completely rule out the possibility.

“If we feel that we need to further amend the complaint for one reason or another, we’ll do it. But at this point, we have no plans for any further amendments,” Staubus said.

The lawsuit does not seek a specific monetary demand, but it does ask for a judgment against the defendants “for damages resulting from breaches of statutory and common law, seeks to award restitution to the plaintiffs, and an injunction to stop the flood of opioids to the region.”

The next step of the lawsuit will be responses filed by each of the defendants, which Staubus said has not yet occurred.

Email Zach Vance at [email protected] Follow Zach Vance on Twitter at @ZachVanceJCP. Like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/ZachVanceJCP.

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