In wake of DEA probe, doctor's license suspended
Feds investigating claims of illicit prescription sales by North Bethesda physician
A North Bethesda doctor under federal investigation for selling prescriptions for painkillers had his state medical license suspended last month by Maryland regulators.
Dr. Silviu Ziscovici, 56, was barred from practicing medicine Dec. 1, in part because 15 of his patients died from drug overdoses, according to information from a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration investigation contained in the public suspension order from the Maryland Board of Physicians.
The order, signed by board Deputy Director John T. Papavasiliou, details DEA and Montgomery County Police investigations and shows a physician who provided prescriptions to known drug abusers.
Papavasiliou quoted a medical expert who said, "[Ziscovici's] medical decision making process was grossly incompetent."
"The action our board took speaks for itself," Papavasiliou said in an interview Friday with The Gazette. "It was swift; it was exact; that shows how important this is to the medical profession. It's a pretty troubling case."
Ziscovici, of the 5900 block of Empire Way, has declined to comment and referred questions to his attorney.
Ziscovici's attorney, Peter D. Greenspun of Fairfax, Va., said Tuesday the suspension was appealed Dec. 15 and they will continue to seek reinstatement at future administrative hearings.
"He's a doctor that has taken care of a lot of patients over a lot of years, and that's what we are going to show," Greenspun said.
Under the terms of his suspension, Ziscovici was required to surrender his state medical license and any prescription forms or pads. He is not allowed to practice medicine or give medical advice in Maryland.
Papavasiliou said he could not discuss Ziscovici's appeal or talk about the case beyond the information within the order. The board can uphold Ziscovici's suspension, revoke his license temporarily or revoke his license permanently.
The state board, which regulates doctors, issued the suspension after "concluding that the public health, safety or welfare imperatively requires emergency action," according to the 18-page order.
According to the board's order, Ziscovici had been seeing about 35 patients a day from 13 different states including Maryland, Tennessee, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. DEA investigators believe Ziscovici was making between $1.4 million and $1.9 million a year.
Citing an active investigation, DEA and Montgomery police officials declined to comment. As of Tuesday, no criminal charges had been filed against Ziscovici, who was licensed to practice medicine in Maryland in 1995 and worked from his office in Suite 511 of the Rockwall buildings, adjacent to White Flint Mall.
Beginning in April 2009, several Maryland pharmacists reported to the state Division of Drug Control after seeing an unusually high number of Ziscovici's patients with prescriptions for large amounts of pain medication, according to the order.
The DEA began looking into Ziscovici in September 2009 and, according to people interviewed by DEA investigators, Ziscovici wrote prescriptions for Xanax, Oxycodone, Dexedrine, Adderall, methadone and morphine, the order states. DEA investigators also interviewed nurse practitioners employed by Ziscovici who said he charged between $300 and $500 for each visit. His patients ranged in age from 19 to 70, according to a complaint filed with the state board cited in the order.
Montgomery County Police were also investigating Ziscovici and in summer 2009, undercover detectives posing as patients received prescriptions for drugs from him, the order states.
The county officers bought prescriptions for Oxycodone in 80 milligram doses, the highest available and a dosage intended for opiod-tolerant patients, according to Papavasiliou. The officers provided Ziscovici with brief descriptions of their medical problems and did not receive a physical examination, according to the order.
A patient who brought other patients to Ziscovici from Tennessee was paid by Ziscovici in narcotics, food stamps, handguns and rifles, the order states.
Ziscovici owns a condominium at 12211 Braxfield Court in Rockville. He answered the phone Friday and Monday by saying, "Doctor's office." One call was answered by a message that said, "North Bethesda Medical Clinic."
His Rockville Pike office was locked Tuesday afternoon.
April 3, 2009 Maryland Division of Drug Control hears initial complaint from a state pharmacist about prescriptions written by Dr. Silviu Ziscovici.
July 17, 2009 U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration receives first complaint about Ziscovici.
Aug. 20, 2009 Maryland Board of Physicians initiates investigation.
Aug. 27, 2009 Montgomery County Police use undercover detectives to buy prescriptions from Ziscovici.
Sept. 8, 2009 Drug Enforcement Administration initiates investigation.
Sept. 24, 2009 County police again use undercover detectives to buy prescriptions.
Oct. 19, 2009 For a third time, county police use undercover detectives to buy prescriptions.
Dec. 2, 2009 DEA conducts survey of Virginia pharmacies dating back to June 1, 2006, finding one patient used three addresses to fill 159 prescriptions in 10 cities.
March 2, 2010 DEA executes search and seizure warrant on Ziscovici's home and office. Agents seize 4,300 patient records, $6,282 in cash, computers and financial documents.
March 18, 2010 DEA executes second search and seizure warrant on three safe deposit boxes. Agents find $145,966 in cash, collectable coins and $65,880 in jewelry.
Sept. 15, 2010 DEA issues suspension of Ziscovici's federal registration to prescribe medicine, pending his right to a hearing. Ziscovici is no longer allowed to write prescriptions.
Dec. 1, 2010 Maryland Board of Physicians suspends Ziscovici's state medical license.
Dec. 15, 2010 Ziscovici appeals suspension at a post-deprivation hearing, according to his attorney.
Source: Maryland Board of Physicians Dec. 1 suspension order against Dr. Silviu Ziscovici