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Madison doctor pays $110,000 over allegations of improper opioid prescriptions
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OPIOIDS | FEDERAL ACTION

Madison doctor pays $110,000 over allegations of improper opioid prescriptions

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Opioid pills

A Madison doctor who worked at Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin has agreed to pay $110,000 to settle federal civil allegations that he wrote prescriptions for opioids and other controlled substances with no legitimate medical purpose.

Dr. David E. Eckerle, who according to an online directory worked at Group Health’s Capitol Clinic, settled the case alleging he violated the Controlled Substances Act, according to a statement Tuesday by acting U.S. Attorney Timothy M. O’Shea.

Eckerle started at Group Health in 1994, did not treat patients during the federal investigation and is no longer an employee, spokesman Al Wearing said. Group Health “fully cooperated with the inquiry and takes opioid prescribing very seriously and has protocols in place to ensure safe prescribing,” Wearing said.

According to the settlement agreement, the government alleged that between May 2016 and January 2020, Eckerle wrote prescriptions for opioids and other controlled substances that had no legitimate medical purpose and were not issued in the usual course of professional practice.

“The opioid epidemic has caused great harm and deep sadness to individuals, families, and communities here in Wisconsin,” O’Shea said. “In cases unrelated to this matter, this office has seen opiate addictions that begin with a doctor over-prescribing opiate pain pills and that end with the former patient overdosing on heroin or going to prison for drug-related crimes. Wisconsin physicians who increase risks of opiate addiction by irresponsibly prescribing opioids will be held accountable.”

Eckerle denies the allegations, and there has been no determination of liability, the statement said.

His state medical license remains active, with no disciplinary action taken against it, according to the state Department of Safety and Professional Services.

Wisconsin had a preliminary total of 1,097 opioid overdose deaths in 2020, as of last week, up from the previous record of 932 in 2017. The tally will likely grow once more death investigations are completed, state officials said.

Hospital emergency rooms reported 3,802 suspected opioid overdoses last year, also a record.

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