An Illinois internet prescription malpractice suit named two physicians, one from New Jersey and one from Pennsylvania for prescribing Xanax and Ultram to an Illinois resident based solely on an online questionnaire. In May 2004 a 31 year old Illinois man received 60 2mg tablets of Xanax and 90 50mg tablets of Ultram based upon the internet application. The prescriptions were filled by internet pharmacies located in Florida. The plaintiff testified that he recalls taking one tablet of the Xanax and one tablet of the Ultram, and the next thing that he recalls is waking up in a hospital three weeks later.
A Chicago internist who testified on behalf of the plaintiff testified that the standard of care for a physician prescribing medication over the internet requires the physician to have an ongoing patient -physician relationship or to perform a physical exam on the patient prior to prescribing medication. The Federation of State Medical Boards of the United States Model Guidelines for Appropriate use of the internet in Medical Practice states that: issuing prescrptions based solely on an online questionnaire does not constitute an acceptable standard of care. Illinois and most states require that a physician issuing prescriptions to patients within Illinois must be licensed to practice medicine in the state of Illinois. Neither of the doctors were licensed in Illinois.
After ingesting the prescriptions plaintiff apparently blacked out and took an overdose that caused a lack of oxygen to his brain that ultimately led to a coma that lasted three weeks. Plaintiff has diffuse brain damage and coordination problems that limit his ability to walk or even drive a motor vehicle. Defendant doctors alleged that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent in overdosing. Immediately before jury selection one of the doctors offered to settle for $650,000 which was accepted. He was under investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office and had been taking the Fifth Amendment during the discovery process. The other doctor who had prescribed the Ultram went to trial and the jury in U.S. District Court in Chicago exonerated him on the basis that the prescription of Ultram was the proper dosage, whereas the prescription of Xanax was 4 to 8 times the initial recommended dosage. There are potentially thousands of patients who are harmed annually by these internet doctors who are prescribing all different kinds of medications to patients they have never seen and whom they are not licensed to treat.
On August 2, 2006, both of the doctors that were named as defendants in the medical malpractice lawsuit filed by Attorney Edmund J. Scanlan in the U.S. District Court in Chicago were indicted by a grand jury in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for violating the Controlled Substances Act, 21 USC Sec. 841 et. seq. as well as conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. The indictment charges the doctors of issuing as many as 1,500 prescriptions per day.