‘One Pill Can Kill’: Raising prescription drug awareness
A San Luis Obispo doctor accused of handing out pain pill prescriptions to undercover police officers is facing felony charges and the possible loss of her medical license.
Dr. Atsuko Eubank Rees, 67, whose practice Rees Family Medical is located at 4251 S. Higuera St., was charged Wednesday in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court with six felony counts of prescribing a controlled substance for a non-legitimate purpose; each charge carries a sentence range of 16 months to three years in County Jail.
Rees is awaiting a court date and is not in custody.
The criminal complaint against Rees alleges she prescribed Norco (known generically as hydrocodone) and Percoset (a mixture of oxycodone and acetaminophen) to three undercover officers in May, August and September of 2015.
The first alleged incident occurred May 7, 2015, when an undercover officer posed as a plumber with "a history of depression and anxiety" and asked Rees for a prescription for Norco or Vicodin (a mixture of hydrocodone and acetaminophen) for sleep, according to a petition filed by the Medical Board of California.
The petition, filed Tuesday, seeks to revoke or suspend Rees' medical license.
"(Rees) replied, 'Well, I can't give you Vicodin or Norco for sleep. It has to be for pain," according to the document.
After the officer, for the first time, volunteered that he experienced some shoulder pain and asked for the highest possible dosage of Norco, "(Rees) briefly checked (the officer's) heart, then prescribed him 30 pills of Norco."
The entire doctor visit lasted four minutes, according to the document.
That same officer returned on Aug. 21 to request a refill and, after another four-minute appointment, received a prescription for 30 more pills.
The medical board complaint against Rees states that the doctor never performed a physical examination of the undercover officer, failed to document "an adequate and accurate patient history" and did not ask any questions about the officer's depression or whether the officer had thoughts of suicide.
Another complaint against Rees alleges that, from 2013 to 2016, she prescribed hundreds of pills of Adderall (a stimulant), alprazolam (a sedative), Ambien (a sleep aid), buprenorphine (a painkiller), clonazepam (a sedative), Soma (a muscle relaxant) and Suboxone (a painkiller) to a single patient despite "repeated red flags" of abusive behavior.
Rees is no stranger to accusations of handing out improper prescriptions; in 2011, she was sued by the family of Cal Poly student Matthew Hurlbutt, who in 2010 was struck and killed by a truck while walking along Highway 101. Hurlbutt's family accused Rees in their lawsuit of improperly prescribing medical marijuana — Hurlbutt had THC in his blood at the time of his death, in addition to cocaine and a high level of alcohol.
In 2013, the Medical Board of California placed Rees on a five-year probation, following an undercover operation by state and city police investigators.
That investigation found Rees improperly prescribed medical marijuana to multiple undercover officers. Her license was suspended for 45 days, she was ordered to enroll in a UC San Diego School of Medicine course on prescribing practices as well as courses on ethics and medical record-keeping.