San Diego Doctor Pays $200,000 to Resolve Allegations that He Wrote Illegitimate Opioid Prescriptions
Assistant U.S. Attorney Dylan M. Aste (619) 546-7621
NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – September 2, 2021
SAN DIEGO – San Diego area pain clinic doctor Brenton Wynn, M.D., has paid $200,000 to resolve allegations that he illegally prescribed opioids and other dangerous drugs to his patients, according to a settlement agreement signed by Dr. Wynn and the United States. The settlement stems from the United States’ continued efforts to combat the opioid epidemic on all fronts, including this investigation of whether Dr. Wynn illegally prescribed opioids to his patients in violation of the Controlled Substances Act.
The Controlled Substances Act provides that doctors may write prescriptions for opioids only for a legitimate medical purpose while acting in the usual course of their professional practice. The United States alleged that Dr. Wynn wrote opioid prescriptions to patients without a legitimate medical purpose and/or outside the usual course of his professional practice for more than five years. Dr. Wynn wrote prescriptions for fentanyl, oxycodone, hydromorphone, methadone, oxymorphone, and morphine.
The United States further alleged that Dr. Wynn prescribed at the same time a dangerous combination of opioids and benzodiazepines such as Xanax and Valium. Of even more concern, Dr. Wynn allegedly prescribed to some patients a combination of at least one opioid, one benzodiazepine and one muscle relaxant such as Soma. Drug abusers colloquially refer to the opioid, benzodiazepine, and muscle relaxant combination as the “Trinity” or “Holy Trinity” because of its rapid euphoric effects. These drug combinations are known to significantly increase the risk of addiction, abuse, and overdose.
The investigation exemplifies the Department of Justice’s willingness to investigate doctors who may be overprescribing opioids while treating patients who suffer painful conditions. Such doctors must still only prescribe opioids in accordance with recognized and accepted medical standards. Indeed, public health experts have long warned health care providers that overdose risk is elevated in patients receiving medically prescribed opioids, particularly those receiving high dosages. Doctors and other health care providers should carefully track the potency of opioids prescribed to patients by noting the Morphine Milligram Equivalent (MME, also commonly referred to as Morphine Equivalent Dose or MED) of prescribed opioids. Among other things, tracking MMEs advances better practices for pain management by reinforcing the need for providers to consider alternatives to using high-dosage opioids to treat pain and to appropriately justify decisions to use opioids at dosages that place patients at high risk of addiction, abuse, and overdose. Furthermore, prescribing high dosages increases the risk that patients will divert opioids.
Based on its investigation, the United States alleged that Dr. Wynn prescribed large quantities of opioids to his patients that reached high daily MME levels, often even exceeding 120 MME. The United States further alleged that Dr. Wynn sometimes continued to prescribe dangerous opioids even when his patients’ urine drug test results showed that they were not taking the drugs Dr. Wynn prescribed.
“Even in our climate of heightened awareness of the dangers of opioids, some doctors continue to overprescribe opioids,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “This office will pursue those overprescribing doctors and bring them to justice. And as we have consistently demonstrated, we will continue to use all available tools to combat the serious opioid epidemic.” Grossman commended Assistant U.S. Attorney Dylan Aste and the Drug Enforcement Administration for their work on the investigation.
The DEA has a pending administrative action against Dr. Wynn (Docket No. 20-10) to revoke his ability to prescribe opioids and other controlled substances.
“While the vast amount of medical professionals prescribe opioids legitimately and are meeting their patients’ standard of care, DEA will vigorously pursue information from the public about the doctors who are not,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge John W. Callery. “DEA will always protect the public from doctors who put their patients in harm’s way.”
To report a tip directly to a DEA representative regarding medical personnel writing suspicious opioid prescriptions and pharmacies dispensing large amounts of opioids, call (571) 324-6499, or visit the DEA’s website (https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/) and click on “Report Illicit Pharmaceutical Activities.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Dylan M. Aste of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California handled this matter along with DEA investigators.
The claims resolved by this settlement are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.
Department of Justice
Office of the U.S. Attorney
Southern District of California