2017-07-14 / Community

Simi Valley doctor admits to over prescribing controlled substances

By Melissa Simon

Matzner Matzner A Simi Valley internal medicine doctor who admitted to using his office as a drug supply for users and dealers faces up to a year in jail and five years’ probation when he is sentenced in Ventura County Superior Court Aug. 14.

William Matzner, 58, of Simi Valley pleaded guilty June 21 to one felony count of selling controlled substances, specifically oxycodone, said Karen Wold, the Ventura County senior deputy district attorney handling the case.

“I think (Matzner’s) conduct of overprescribing opiates and painkillers to his patients, many of whom were drug seekers or resold

(the pills), was extraordinarily reckless and dangerous,” Wold said. “Considering he has no prior criminal history and is a doctor and not a heroin dealer, I think anything the court decides to give up to a year in jail and probation would be fine.”

The Ventura County Interagency Pharmaceutical Crimes Unit, or PCU, launched an investigation into Matzner’s practice in May 2015 after the task force received reports that the doctor was overprescribing opiates and other medications. He was arraigned in May 2016.

Initially, Matzner also faced a second count of selling controlled substances, as well as two counts of unlawfully providing a controlled substance prescription.

“In exchange for pleading guilty to one count of selling controlled substances, all other counts will be dismissed at the (Aug. 14) sentence,” said Edward Robinson, the doctor’s attorney. “It was a good and fair deal for him.”

Robinson previously told the Acorn that Matzner “acted in good faith” while prescribing medication and was a “fine man.”

‘Red flag’

Authorities served a search warrant May 28, 2015, at the doctor’s office at 143 Parrot Lane in Simi Valley and seized a number of medical files and other evidence. At the time Matzner gave up his Drug Enforcement Administration registration, which a physician must have to write prescriptions for controlled substances.

The DEA classifies substances into five drug schedules based on acceptable medical use, as well as the potential for abuse or dependency, with Schedule I having the highest dependency.

Over the course of the yearlong investigation into Matzner, the pharmaceutical crimes unit found the doctor had been overprescribing drugs that fell under the DEA’s schedules II, III and IV, including Vicodin, Oxycontin, Tylenol with codeine, Xanax, Valium and Tramadol.

In one case, Wold said, Matzner had prescribed a patient 2,000 morphine pills that she was “likely turning around and reselling,” although there was no evidence to prove it.

“The PCU looks at whether these people are drug seekers and if the doctor is giving them the medications they seek, because it’s the doctor’s job to not do that if there’s no legitimate reason,” Wold said.

“(During the investigation), an undercover task force agent went to Matzner’s office and made statements consistent with drug seekers, like that he was taking painkillers from friends and family. That should have been a red flag that someone is looking for medications they may not need.”

For the past two decades, opiate and painkiller overdoses have been deemed the leading cause of death in individuals under the age of 50, according to a statement released by the Ventura County district attorney’s office.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 183,000 people nationwide died from prescription opioid related deaths between 1999 and 2015.

“Doctors like Matzner are partially responsible for the opiate epidemic as it exists in America today because their illegal, irresponsible behavior leads to deaths,” Ventura County Sheriff’s Detective Micah Weilbacher said. “Our goal is to protect the public by going after doctors who operate illegally and prosecute them. Doctors need to be put on notice that they can’t practice with impunity against facing charges for illegal behavior.”

Medical board review

Matzner, who is licensed in California and Nevada, has practiced medicine for 31 years and is affiliated with both Simi Valley and Los Robles hospitals, according to WebMD. He is also certified for hospice and palliative care through the American Board of Internal Medicine.

As of this week, no violations are listed against Matzner on the Medical Board of California’s website and his license is current, meaning he can continue practicing, though he cannot legally prescribe medications.

The board regulates medical licenses in the state and can revoke or suspend them at any time.

Cassandra Hockenson, spokesperson for the board, said the agency is conducting an independent administrative investigation and will take “proper action.”

“We like to see what’s going to happen criminally before we take our actions and will make our decision after (Matzner’s) sentence,” Hockenson said.

The medical board will take several factors into account when determining “where to go with his ability to practice in California,” she added, including Matzner’s sentence and the fact that he surrendered his DEA registration.

Pending his sentence, Matzner could have his license revoked or suspended, in which case he would need to reapply or petition the board to reinstate him.

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