By Patti Bridges, Staff Writer, St. Petersburg Evening Independent
Five of six St. Petersburg doctors charged with conspiracy to adulterate or misbrand drugs by federal prosecutors in Atlanta early this month entered pleas of guilty Friday afternoon, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Gale McKenzie.
The pleas were entered by Dr. Robert M. Kilmark, Dr. Richard M Anderson, Dr. Gary Dresden, Dr. John A. Ray and Dr. Bruce Walker, Ms. McKenzie said. Anderson practiced gynecology here for many years before moving to Cortez, Colo., in June.
The doctors were among three corporations and 43 individuals in 11 states who were charged all the result of a nationwide undercover “sting” operation run by FBI officials from a phony Atlanta hospital management firm which used the name “Pharmoney.”
“All have cooperated with the government in the investigation,” Ms. McKenzie said. She said documents filed with the Atlanta court say the doctors sold sample drugs, which are commonly given to physicians by drug manufacturers. She also said the doctors may not have been aware of methods used to repackage such drugs.
The five will be sentenced by Federal District Judge J. Owen Forrester on Sept. 27 in Atlanta, she said. The charge carries a minimum penalty of one year in prison, a fine of $1,000 and five years of community service, Ms. McKenzie said. The remaining defendant from St. Petersburg, Dr. Harold Ticktin, is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday.
Efforts to reach the doctors were unsuccessful. The incidents involving the doctors will be reviewed by estate licensing authorities, said Dr. Robert Dawson, president of the Pinellas County Medical Society. He said the State Board of Medical Examiners has a wide range of options in disciplining physicians which go from taking no action to taking away the right to practice medicine.
“As of this moment, no one will be stopped from practicing,” Dawson said.
Several of the doctors told him they received no money, Dawson said. He said “a trusted pharmacist” convinced several to hand over sample drugs with the understanding the drugs would be used to help third world countries.
When the charges made headlines Aug. 7, Kilmark denied selling any sample drugs or receiving any payment for sample drugs. Kilmark said he was allowing a “Mr. Morrell” to take his sample drugs to the St. Petersburg Free Clinic last fall when he discovered some of those drugs were not being delivered. He said ha immediately told the man he would deliver the drugs himself and stopped the arrangement.
A man identified as Robert Morrell collected sample drugs from doctors in Florida and sent them out of state for re-packaging, court documents stated.
The day after the charges were made public, Dresden told a reporter for the St. Petersburg Times he thought he was only getting rid of surplus drugs in a legal manner when he sold them to a man last fall for $500. He said he didn’t know it was against a federal law. He said he intended to plead guilty to the charge.