Psychiatrist gets four-month suspension

Deana Stokes Sullivan
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Admits to prescribing drugs online without seeing patients

Dr. Mohamed Mekawy

St. John’s psychiatrist Dr. Mohamed Mekawy fought back tears Thursday at a medical board disciplinary tribunal hearing while apologizing to his family, patients and colleagues for causing them shame.

Mekawy, who admitted to prescribing medications online to patients in the United States without seeing or assessing them, was given a four-month suspension, dating back to March 7 when his licence was suspended by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Newfoundland and Labrador (CPSNL).

He’s also been ordered to complete a prescribing course, sign a written undertaking that he will not prescribe medications via the Internet and pay a portion of the costs for Thursday’s hearing, in an agreed amount of $10,000.

 

These sanctions, which were proposed in a joint legal submission by his lawyer Peter Browne and the college’s lawyer Lewis Andrews, were accepted Thursday afternoon by the disciplinary tribunal.

The full decision will also be published by the CPSNL.

After the tribunal’s decision, Browne asked if Mekawy could make a statement. The doctor said he was “ethically blinded” by assurances he was given by an Internet drug company that he could prescribe to patients in this manner.

Mekawy had his medical licences suspended in Indiana, Michigan and South Carolina in 2007, but failed to report that to the Newfoundland board and falsely answered no to questions regarding any suspensions, reprimands, restrictions or disciplinary actions in other jurisdictions in a 2008 application for licence renewal in this province.

In a letter of response to the Newfoundland board in 2010, after it discovered he provided false answers on the applications, Mekawy said his “profound sense of shame” affected his judgment to the point that he chose not to mention the incident with the U.S. medical authorities.

He told the tribunal Thursday he takes full responsibility for his actions, has learned some serious lessons and promises to never engage in such unethical practices again.

The tribunal, chaired by Dr. Jody Woolfrey, with members Dr. Ed Collins and John Whalen, heard that Mekawy began practising medicine in Newfoundland in 2003. He also held licences in the U.S. states of Indiana, Michigan and South Carolina.

The Newfoundland medical board received information from the Federation of State Medical Boards of the United States in August 2010, providing a summary of reported actions regarding Mekawy’s medical licences in Indiana, Michigan and South Carolina. His licence was temporarily suspended in Indiana in late 2007, after which he voluntarily withdrew his Indiana licence prior to or in lieu of an inquiry and agreed to never again apply for a licence in that state.

Mekawy’s licences in the two other states were subsequently suspended.

Mekawy explained in his letter to the Newfoundland board, he received correspondence in 2007 from a company expressing interest in having him provide prescribing services to its Internet pharmacy, USACHOICEMEDS.com.

He said he spoke to a man by phone who said the company provided assistance to people in the U.S. who had difficulty obtaining health insurance.

Mekawy agreed to issue prescriptions for a fee and said he provided this service for about two months in July and August, 2007.

“The general protocol I followed involved the receipt of a completed questionnaire by a patient on my home computer which contained pertinent medical information along with a request for medication. I would review this information and either agree or disagree with the request,” Mekawy said.

He also said he didn’t knowingly prescribe controlled medications because he was not aware that one drug he prescribed, Soma, was considered a controlled drug in some U.S. states.

After the Indiana medical board informed him his licence was being suspended, Mekawy said the Internet drug company provided him with no support or assistance.

He said his licences in Michigan and South Carolina were also suspended, “likely due to a reciprocity agreement with the Indiana Medical Board,” but Mekawy said he didn’t use his licence in either of these two states when issuing prescriptions for the online company.

Documents filed with the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana say the investigation into Mekawy began when the Office of the Attorney General initially contacted an investigator with the Arkansas State Police who interviewed people who had obtained prescription drugs over the Internet.

In one case, a wife admitted she used her husband’s credit card to obtain the drug Soma from the online Internet pharmacy to feed her drug addiction. She admitted she never saw the doctor prior to receiving the medication. Another patient obtained Soma with his personal credit card without ever seeing Mekawy.

Indiana documents also note that Mekawy is under investigation by the Medical Board of California after an individual that he prescribed Soma to was hospitalized after overdosing on this medication.

Other drugs he was reported to have prescribed included pain medications, sleep aids and drugs to treat sexual dysfunction. Tramadol, Butalbital, Viagra, Rozerem, Ultracet, Cialis and Levitra are cited in one of the documents.

The Indiana board concluded that Mekawy’s actions represented a clear and immediate danger to public health and safety.

His lawyer, Peter Browne, expects Mekawy’s Newfoundland licence to be reinstated in July. He said he has enrolled in a two-day prescribing course in Ontario in September.

Brown also presented to the tribunal two letters of support from Eastern Health managers, Dr. Kevin Hogan, a former clinical chief of mental health and addictions and Dr. David Atwood, the current clinical chief.

Atwood said Mekawy’s online prescribing didn’t “creep” into his psychiatry practice and he had no issues with his competency. In fact, Atwood said his prescribing of psychopharmacology drugs was on a “more conservative range.”

Praising his clinical skills, Atwood said Mekawy has “strong character and reliability” and he has high personal and professional regard for him. He said if Mekawy’s licence is reinstated, he would have no problem returning him to his position at Eastern Health.

 

dss@thetelegram.com

Organizations: College of Physicians, Medical Board of California, Newfoundland board Federation of State Medical Boards of the United States Indiana Medical Board Medical Licensing Board of Indiana Office of the Attorney General Arkansas State Police

Geographic location: United States, Indiana, Newfoundland and Labrador Michigan South Carolina Soma South Carolina.The Newfoundland Ontario

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Recent comments

  • Steve
    May 14, 2011 - 10:49

    Mom - You must be this man's actual mom! This man lied on his medical license renewal, contributed to peoples drug abuse problems, potentially causing drug overdoses in people supposed under his - electronic care! You can't be for real! I guess only time will tell with regard to any upcoming criminal charges.

    • Mary Jane
      May 15, 2011 - 05:57

      To Mom: The only part I agree with you is that it should cost him dearly. You cannot break laws and expect patients to have trust in you.

  • Adam Martin Aguiar
    May 13, 2011 - 19:37

    I was almost killed by the indiscriminate prescription of oxycodone at a hospital after I fell and broke my shoulder.The thoughtless indiscriminate use of these opium drugs has to be better controlled ..even under legal use.

  • Adam Martin Aguiar
    May 13, 2011 - 19:31

    I spent a few days in the hospital being detoxified from the pain killer drug oxycodone that was given me at the hospital where I went to, after I broke my shoulder bone. The [pain was excruciating but the effect of the pain killer was almost fatal. This was all done legally and straight forward. My comment is ..we must stop the indiscriminate prescribing of such opium derived drugs.......even when not for "recreational" uses! There have have deaths I am told due to this cavalar

  • mom
    May 13, 2011 - 15:01

    I don't think this doctor is a criminal. Based on the information presented I think he made an error in judgement that will cost him dearly. This does not change his ability as a psychiatrist. I hope he can get past this and continue his work of helping others.

    • Mary Jane
      May 14, 2011 - 13:28

      "Strong character and reliability" clashes with the information posted, which is writing "1500 online prescriptions in one month, submitting a false application and losing license in three states".

  • Brent Jackson
    May 13, 2011 - 14:14

    The clinical chiefs are so desparate to keep psychiatrists in this province that they choose to brand this "doctor" as having “strong character and reliability”. Our society is so completely screwed up.

  • Steve
    May 13, 2011 - 10:49

    I guess we are that hard up to attract specialists here in Newfoundland and Labrador to keep this person on the payroll. There is one reason and one reason only that this doctor would throw his profession on the line - GREED! It might be interesting for Revenue Canada to do an audit on this doctor's income tax ?

  • LOTTEE
    May 13, 2011 - 09:43

    yet another scenario of how the College of Physicians and Surgeons underhandedly mess with the health and welfare of people. This man would be highly educated...is he trying to tell us "He didn't know" that prescribing drugs online...without seeing the patient isn't right... C'mon now. License suspended? No his license should be REVOKED period. If he didn't realise one of the drugs he was prescribing was a controlled substance, who is to say the drug he prescribes to one of his 'physical' patients is not something that could harm them. That coupled with the fact that he was providng scrpts online...when he wasn't licensed to work in various states...ha! Load of bull if you ask me...and to cry or sob about it...I tend to agree...he is upset more at the fact that he got caught, than being 'unethical' - idiot shouldn't be practicing anyways if thats the case.

  • Dawn
    May 13, 2011 - 09:36

    What good is an undertaking from a liar. He LIED on his application. He prescribed medication to patient without seeing them. One person overdosed on his medication. You will never convince me that a doctor didn't know better. I would like to know how may of those applications he turned down. My guess would be none if he was only geting paid to write a prescription. Shame on Eastern Health for employing him.

  • Bad Psychiatrist
    May 13, 2011 - 09:27

    Tsk tsk tsk. If you have an issue here a tissue. Why don't the man cry out to his drug addicted patients that he help to feed. What about them? This guy ain't truly sorry. He's sorry that he got caught. He should have his license be suspended forever. He's nothing more than a typical pill pushing Psychiatrist.

  • Loretta Fitzgerald
    May 13, 2011 - 08:48

    Health care workers see us and help us at our most vulunerable time.This is especially true in the field of psychiatry where there may be unclear thinking,stress and stigma involved. A credible doctor would not even prescribe a baby asprin if he/she did not know the patient.We are talking about medications a lot more serious than a baby asprin right here.On top of that we are talking about a teacher of medical students.Take ethics out of any situation and we are in trouble,take it out of medecine and our lives are in danger.

  • Scott Free
    May 13, 2011 - 07:39

    sob, sob, sob. many a criminal, theif, scumbag are so sorry...after they're caught. But, up until then, they're scheming away, sucking out every possible dollar, preying on the weak. A man of real character and reliability; yeah right.

    • Pete Wrong
      May 13, 2011 - 08:35

      Everyone makes mistakes!! But we all learn from them.

    • Wrong Treatment
      May 15, 2011 - 13:08

      It is amazing how someone lke this "doctor" can be allowed to practice in Newfoundland and Labrador, now that the health board knows about him. I know someone who was a patient of his some years ago at the Health Science and he was a very ignorant person, and looked down on people, not just my friend but others. Are we really that hard up for Good Doctors of any field. Let the U.S. take care of him, since this all started down there.