Dr. Forest Tennant, physician, former mayor, and expert witness, has been served with a search warrant by the DEA in conjunction with an ongoing investigation.
The DEA served Tennant with a warrant that also named United Pharmacy of Los Angeles and its pharmacist owner. The DEA alleges that United and physicians who fill prescriptions at United constitute a drug trafficking organization (DTO).
Court documents say that, “The crimes perpetrated by the DTO include the sale of powerful prescription narcotics such as oxycodone and fentanyl, along with other dangerous and addictive controlled drugs often sought in combination with narcotics, based on invalid prescriptions issued by practitioners including Tennant. . . . United has been submitting millions of dollars in fraudulent Medicare prescription drug claims, namely, claims for the cost of filling invalid narcotic prescriptions, including those issued by Tennant.”
Court documents show that the DEA investigators flagged United Pharmacy because it was filling more opioid painkillers than any other class of drug, often in maximum dosages and potencies. Investigators filed an affidavit stating, “Specifically, investigators believe that United, Tennant and various medical practitioners are profiting from the illicit diversion of controlled substances, including the powerful narcotic fentanyl, which are prescribed and dispensed other than for a legitimate medical purpose.”
Investigators also allege that Tennant took over $100,000 in kickbacks from Insys Therapeutics, maker of a fentanyl-based nasal spray. Court documents claim that Tennant was the top prescriber of Subsys. There were 96 claims totaling more than $1.9 million for five patients between August 2014 and July 2016.
The warrant sought to seize drugs, documents, and records related to the distribution of painkillers and financial records of payments sent or received by doctors.
Tennant told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune that he has done nothing wrong and that the alleged kickbacks were appropriate compensation for speaking engagements. Tennant, who is an outspoken supporter of using opioid medication to ease pain, said that he spoke for Insys numerous times between 2013 and 2015 and that the payments covered the cost of travel, lodging, and meals.
Timing of Investigation
The search warrant was served just one day after Dr. Tennant testified as an expert witness in the opioid trial of Dr. Chris Christensen. Dr. Christiansen of Florence, Montana is on trial for negligent homicide, criminal endangerment, and illegally prescribing pain medications.
At Christensen’s trial, Tennant testified that long-lasting, slow-releasing opioid medications were created in pill forms in 1996. At that time, the federal government said that it was acceptable to prescribe them because they were less likely to cause addiction. Tennant said, “That was a big mistake. . . . After that time, doctors started prescribing opioid drugs as a first line of treatment. I was against this, but I was a distinct minority.”
Tennant testified that prescribing opioids was a medical standard and that the Physician’s Desk Reference, which is the medical professions’ bible, did not give any warning or ceiling as to the dosages. Tennant said, “That was between the physician and patient to determine. . . . There was no single government reference, no single document, no single article until 2016 to tell doctors how far they could go.”