A psychiatrist who founded a methadone clinic in Maine has been convicted of 59 of the 68 counts against him in his prescription fraud trial.
Doctor Marc Shinderman was accused of writing prescriptions using the name and federal Drug Enforcement Agency number of the clinic's medical director. Shinderman testified that he thought the arrangement was perfectly acceptable.
Federal prosecutors, however, argued that Shinderman was violating the law and deceiving pharmacies. Shinderman remains free while awaiting sentencing.
Shinderman and two other psychiatrists founded the Center for Addiction Problems in Chicago before he came to Maine, where he started CAP Quality Care in Westbrook in 2001. It was the second methadone clinic in the Portland area.
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A federal jury on Thursday convicted addiction treatment specialist Dr. Mark Shinderman of forging prescriptions for patients at a Westbrook methadone clinic.
Shinderman, a well-known Illinois psychiatrist who is considered an expert in addiction medicine, faces prison time and fines for his convictions on 58 of the 68 charges against him.
He was found guilty in U.S. District Court of writing another doctor's name and federal registration number on 25 prescriptions for controlled substances. The prescriptions were written during 2001 and 2002, when Shinderman was seeing patients at CAP Quality Care, the for-profit methadone clinic owned by his wife, Noa.
Shinderman also was convicted of 24 counts of aiding and abetting the acquisition of controlled substances by deception, and two counts of falsifying records kept by a pharmacy. The jury split on 15 counts of making false statements on medical records, convicting him of seven and finding him not guilty on the rest.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Clark said the convictions showed the jury rejected the defense claim that Shinderman committed only minor offenses while providing legitimate medical services to his patients and causing no harm to them.
"The harm is to the system of regulation," Clark said. "Every step in the closed system of distribution requires a Drug Enforcement Administration number, and the people expect accountability."
Clark said the verdict upheld the principle that Shinderman's disregard for the law is serious.
"The people of Maine expect their doctors to follow the rules," he said.
Although it was not part of the charges against him, Shinderman's 30-year history as a provider of methadone to treat people addicted to opiates such as heroin was a recurrent theme among the witnesses in the trial.
Shinderman owns and operates two methadone clinics in Chicago, Ill. But he testified that since coming to Maine in 2001, he had been the subject of a "witch hunt" by federal authorities, who denied him a DEA registration number to write prescriptions here.
The government contended that Shinderman wrote prescriptions for controlled substances that included benzodiazepine drugs, which are known as "benzos" and are popular with some methadone patients because they enhance the euphoric effect of the drug.
Shinderman was also known for his published opinion that for years, doctors had under-prescribed methadone to some patients, causing them to relapse into using street drugs.
Although the normal therapeutic dose of methadone is 80 to 100 milligrams a day and never exceeds 150 milligrams at the only other Greater Portland clinic, according to trial testimony, some CAP patients received much more.
Sharon Pratt, who came to the clinic when it opened after becoming addicted to pain medication she received during cancer treatment, ended up receiving 1,050 milligrams a day. She said Shinderman also prescribed other medications for her.
As a result of her high dose, she said she fell asleep while driving her car and then had a heart attack she attributes to the methadone. She filed a complaint with the state medical licensing board and has a pending civil case against Shinderman.
Pratt testified against Shinderman at his criminal trial and waited at the court all day Thursday for the verdict.
She said patients at CAP liked to see Shinderman because he would write prescriptions without arguing.
"This sounds weird, but I think he did it because he wanted to be popular," Pratt said. "I think he liked the attention he got, with everybody thinking he was awesome."
She said she was grateful for the verdict "on behalf of everyone who was victimized by this man."
Shinderman's methadone practice will be the focus of a pending civil case against CAP by the U.S. government. It is expected to go to trial early next year.