A California physician who once faced charges of murder and other felonies as part of an alleged drug-dealing conspiracy has been found not guilty of the remaining charges against him. The San Francisco Chronicle says it ends a high-profile case seen as a test of the ability of doctors to treat patients with chronic pain. Frank B. Fisher, 50, was acquitted of defrauding the state Medi-Cal system — the only criminal charges that hadn’t been dropped — by a Shasta County Superior Court jury after a two-week trial.
It was one of the first and most ambitious prosecutions in the country involving doctors accused of over-prescribing pain medications. Pain-control advocates view such cases as a misguided war on legitimate drug use; authorities insist they have a problem only with physicians who knowingly dispense potent narcotics to people who don’t really need them.
Authorities shut down Fisher’s clinic in 1999 and took him and two pharmacists to jail in handcuffs. Fisher has maintained that he was singled out by prosecutors because he was one of the few doctors brave enough to prescribe high doses of narcotics, including the controversial prescription painkiller OxyContin, to low-income pain sufferers despite the scrutiny of drug- enforcement authorities. “The part of this story that’s always missing is the suffering of the patients I was treating,” he said. Fisher spent five months in jail. His bank account was seized, and he moved in with his parents to save rent.