Pubdate: Wed, 11 Jan 2017
Source: Philadelphia Daily News (PA)
Copyright: 2017 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.
Author: Don Sapatkin


[photo] Photo by Don Sapatkin / Staff Dr. Thomas C. Barone, a family
physician, practiced in Center City until the State Board of Osteopathic
Medicine suspended his license after four current and former patients died
of opioid overdoses. Photo taken following his testimony at a
reinstatement hearing in Harrisburg on Sept. 16, 2016.

Don Sapatkin covers a wide-ranging public health beat and doubles as
deputy health and science editor. He joined the Inquirerin 1987.

The Pennsylvania Board of Osteopathic Medicine refused Wednesday to let
Thomas C. Barone, a pain management physician whose prescribing practices
were linked to the deaths of four patients, return to his Center City


The decision continues a license suspension that began two years ago,
after investigators accused Barone of inappropriately prescribing tens of
thousands of pills, most of them highly addictive opioid painkillers, to
four patients who later died of overdoses, one of them due to heroin.

The medical board gave no reason for its decision, which will be followed
by a written order. But a hearing examiner had recommended after a
September hearing that Barone's reinstatement petition be denied. She said
that while Barone had completed a required training and skills assessment
program, he did not follow up on 10 recommendations that the program had
made. Among them was enrollment in a medical ethics course at Rutgers
University after he scored in the lowest percentile on an ethics

Barone testified at the hearing that he believed the recommendations were
unnecessary and not cost-effective.

Reached on Wednesday, Barone said only that he did not know whether he
would reapply for his medical license.

No criminal charges have been brought against Barone. Prosecutors pursue
criminal counts involving prescribing practices only in extraordinary

A federal jury in Philadelphia last week convicted Jeffrey Bado, who
formerly practiced in Roxborough and Bryn Mawr, on 308 counts, including
269 of drug distribution and one of drug distribution resulting in death.
In October, pill mill kingpin William J. O'Brien III was sentenced in
federal court to 30 years in prison on 123 counts involving money
laundering and drug trafficking, in an operation that included prostitutes
and the Pagans motorcycle gang.

Joe Caltagirone said Wednesday that he hopes prosecutors are investigating
Barone as well. His 39-year-old son, Joey, died in May 2014 after what an
expert witness at Barone's license-suspension hearing several months later
described as a "blatantly hazardous" methadone prescription whose deadly
outcome was "predictable." According to a civil lawsuit against Barone
filed by lawyer Richard J. Hollawell of Marlton, the doctor had already
prescribed 13,965 Percocets, 10,622 OxyContins, and 3,267 Xanax, among

Three months ago, Hollawell filed another suit alleging that sales
representatives for a subsidiary of Teva Pharmaceuticals, the giant
drugmaker with North American headquarters in North Wales, Montgomery
County, had illegally marketed a type of fentanyl to Barone, who
prescribed it to Caltagirone.

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is available in both
pharmaceutical and illicit forms. Street fentanyl is increasingly being
used to cut heroin and is a suspect in 35 overdose deaths this month in

Pharmaceutical fentanyl often is improperly prescribed, according to
critics. Barone's records show that he prescribed 5,918 of the highly
addictive Actiq brand fentanyl lollipops to Caltagirone between 2005 and
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