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Former 'dial-a-doc' on Kauai pleads guilty to 5 drug charges


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POSTED: Saturday, July 11, 2009

A former Kauai physician who ran an online business he called “;dial-a-doc”; to prescribe drugs to patients over the telephone pleaded guilty in federal court yesterday for improperly distributing controlled substances.

Harold C. Spear III, 57, pleaded guilty to five charges involving two patients — one on Kauai and one in Alabama — in an agreement with federal prosecutors.

In the Kauai case, Spear said he signed blank prescription slips that his staff filled in later on four occasions from December 2005 to March 2006 while he was off island. Each of the four prescriptions was for 2,400 milligrams of methadone.

“;I didn't do the testing that other physicians would have done,”; he said.

Spear said the case stands out because the patient had poor documentation for her condition which he did not verify. He said he believed what the patient said rather than test for the condition.

In the Alabama case, Spear admitted prescribing 1,000 milligrams of hydrocodone to an undercover officer in March 2006 with whom his only contact was over the telephone.

The five charges to which Spear pleaded guilty are for distributing or dispensing a controlled substance outside the course of professional medical practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose. He faces a maximum 20-year prison term for each of the four Kauai charges and a five-year term for the Alabama charge when he is sentenced in October.

He was facing 20 charges involving other patients in Hawaii. He reached a plea agreement in the Alabama case before his case went before a grand jury. However, federal prosecutors said he prescribed drugs to the undercover officer over a two-year period.

Spear said he should have conducted physical exams or had face-to-face meetings with the patients before prescribing them drugs.

State and federal law enforcement officials began investigating Spear as part of a related U.S. Food and Drug Administration investigation into an Alabama pharmacy that was filling prescriptions issued by Spear to patients in several Southeastern states. They raided Spear's medical offices in Hanapepe in 2006 and 2007, seizing patient files and other records.

The state suspended Spear's license to practice medicine in Hawaii for a year starting Aug. 10, 2007, and fined him $2,000 for professional misconduct. His license expired in January 2008.