NEWARK – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the Division of Consumer Affairs today announced that a Passaic County orthopedic surgeon has been temporarily barred from prescribing controlled dangerous substances (CDS) amid allegations he prescribed high dosages of addictive opioid painkillers to his patients for years without a legitimate medical purpose, often while turning a blind eye to signs that patients may have been abusing the drugs or diverting them for illegal purposes.
Dr. Evangelos Megariotis, who owns Clifton Orthopedic Associates, P.A., also must cease practicing medicine until the state Board of Medical Examiners (“the Board”) approves a practice monitor to be physically present for all his encounters with patients and to immediately report any gross deviations from the standard of care.
The restrictions, part of an agreement reached between Megariotis and the Board, will remain in place until further order of the Board.
In a Complaint filed with the Board, the State alleges that Megariotis engaged in professional misconduct and gross negligence in treating nine patients between 2012 and 2017 including keeping patients on pain pills for years without cause; failing to diagnose and/or treat patients’ underlying conditions; improperly treating conditions outside his area of expertise without referring patients to specialists; and performing surgeries without first establishing a legitimate medical need.
“Dr. Megariotis allegedly ran his practice for years with little or no concern for professional standards or the regulations in place to protect patients, including the restrictions on habit-forming prescription painkillers” said Attorney General Grewal. “We will not allow our battle against the deadly scourge of addiction to be undermined by rogue practitioners who think rules don’t apply to them.”
After reviewing the records of nine of Megariotis’ patients, the State alleges that the doctor endangered their life, health, welfare, or safety in actions that included:
Failing to conduct any routine urine or blood testing, and/or to conduct regular lookups on the NJ Prescription Monitoring Program to ensure patients’ proper use of CDS;
Failing to acknowledge clear signs of potential drug abuse and/or drug diversion in patients;
Discouraging one patient from using illegal narcotics by telling him “anything that drugs can do on the street, my medications will do better and safer” and to “just call me”;
Treating patient complaints of hyper tension, upper respiratory issues, attention deficit disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, “car phobia,” and other conditions outside his area of expertise– often with CDS like Xanax, Adderall, and cough syrup with codeine – without a complete history and physical exam, and without referrals to specialists;
Failing to conduct bloodwork or other tests on two patients to mitigate potential risks associated with long-term use of NSAIDS and Prednisone, even when one patient reported rectal bleeding and gastrointestinal problems;
Performing surgery on one patient’s knee, and another patient’s shoulder, despite a lack of diagnostic findings to support the medical necessity for the procedures; and
Prescribing addictive pain medication to patients for years without a pain management plan, as required, and continuing them on high dosages of the drugs even when patients reported no relief from pain.
“These allegations call into question Dr. Megariotis’ medical judgment and fitness to practice,” said Sharon M. Joyce, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “The Board’s primary responsibility is to protect the public and the temporary restrictions placed on his practicing authority provide the Board with a mechanism to closely monitor his conduct as the case against him moves forward, and to swiftly intervene if necessary.”
Under the terms of an Interim Order Imposing Limitations on Practice, Megariotis is responsible for hiring and paying for the Practice Monitor, who must be a Board-certified Orthopedic Surgeon. The Practice Monitor is required to provide the Board with monthly reports regarding Megariotis’ practice and to immediately report –both orally and in writing - any gross deviations from the standard of care.
The Order further mandates that within six months Megariotis must complete a Board-approved evaluation to assess his ability to safely and competently engage in orthopedics and prescribe CDS. Once the evaluation is completed, either party may petition for a modification of the practice limitations.
In addition to the bar on prescribing CDS, the Order also prohibits Megariotis from prescribing Prozac, which is not a controlled substance.
The Order permits Attorney General Grewal to move for the immediate temporary suspension of Megariotis’ license if he violates any of its terms.
Investigators with the Enforcement Bureau within the Division of Consumer Affairs conducted the investigation.
Deputy Attorney General Michael Antenucci, of the Professional Boards Prosecution Section in the Division of Law, is representing the State in this matter.
Joseph M. Gorrell, of Brach Eichler LLC, is representing Dr. Megariotis in this matter.
Patients who believe that they have been treated by a licensed health care professional in an inappropriate manner can file an online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504- 6200.