Former GA doctor admits to illegally prescribing painkillers to Central Kentuckians

LONDON  — A former Georgia physician has admitted in federal court that he conspired with the owner of a Georgia pain clinic, and others, to unlawfully distribute thousands of prescription pills to Kentuckians.

On Thursday, Michael Johnston, 58, pleaded guilty, before U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar, to conspiring to unlawfully distribute oxycodone. Pursuant to his plea agreement, which is still awaiting the Court’s approval, Johnston agreed to serve 10 years in prison, beginning on the date of his formal sentencing, January 12, 2016. Under federal law, he must serve at least 85 percent
of his sentence.

Johnston admitted that, from May 2011 until November 2011, he conspired with Joel Shumrak, the owner of a Tucker, Ga., pain clinic, and others, to illegally distribute large quantities of oxycodone and Xanax to residents of numerous Kentucky counties, including Clay, Laurel, Rockcastle, Pulaski, Floyd, Knox, Bell, Pike, Jefferson, Whitley, Madison, Montgomery, Fayette, and Magoffin counties. Johnston further admitted that he ignored the fact that these Kentuckians were addicts and were likely selling the drugs for profit upon their return to Kentucky.

Johnston, who had previously practiced as a pediatrician, acknowledged that he had no formal training or experience in prescribing adult pain medication, prior to being hired by Shumrak.
According to Johnson’s plea agreement, many of the patients were seen by non-physicians, who then recommended prescriptions, allowing the clinic to increase the number of patients that could be seen in a day.

Johnson also admitted that he provided little or no physical examination to many of these patients, before providing the prescriptions; he made no referrals for surgery or other medical exams; and he was encouraged to see as many patients, per day, as possible. Court records also show that Shumrak’s clinic did not even accept medical insurance, operating on a cash-only basis. Shumrak has also pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment earlier this year.

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