Nearly six years after his practice was raided, Dr. David Kirkwood was sentenced Wednesday in federal court for running what federal officials said was a “pill mill” that included over-prescribing patients, seven of whom later died from overdoses.
U.S. District Court Judge Walter Rice sentenced the Dayton physician to nearly six years in prison after many hearings during which witnesses gave testimony about Kirkwood’s practice.
Rice ordered that said Dr. Kirkwood’s 70-month prison sentence on counts of distributing drugs for no legitimate purpose and health care fraud will be followed by five years’ supervised release and 250 hours community service. Kirkwood and his wife are to pay restitution of nearly $160,000 to Medicaid and Medicare.
“David Kirkwood’s method of distribution was the prescription pad, but make no mistake: he was a drug dealer,” U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman said in a press release. “His prescriptions exposed his ‘patients’ to the risk of overdose and encouraged their addiction.”
“The crime is horrible. It’s horrible,” Rice said, adding that any physician who violates the Hippocratic Oath “frankly out to be drummed out of the profession.”
Rice said Dr. Kirkwood was the highest prescriber of methadone in Ohio by a long shot.
“This is one of the few case where general deterrence has a purpose,” Rice said. “I hope the lesson of Dr. Kirkwood alerts others in the medical profession that this is absolutely nothing to fool around with.”
Kirkwood will be allowed to self-surrender in the next couple months to the appropriate authorities, in part because Kirkwood wanted time to deal with ex-patients’ medical records.
One member of the gallery — which Rice said included victims’ families — muttered that the sentence was a “slap on the hand.”
Kirkwood, 62, and his wife Beverly both pleaded guilty last year to health care fraud while running a practice in which prosecutors say seven patients died shortly after receiving prescriptions from Kirkwood.
Rice speculated that government prosecutors removed death allegation-related counts because they didn’t feel they could prove that allegation at trial.
Rice said there was “no evidence” that Dr. Kirkwood’s prescriptions caused the deaths, but the judge said it could be argued that the prescriptions contributed to them.
Rice also said the government no longer claims Kirkwood made $6 million and no longer seeks forfeiture of $2.5 million. “Things change,” Rice said about a case from indictment to sentencing.
During an earlier hearing, Rice agreed with a defense objection that Kirkwood’s prescriptions directly resulted in the death of a patient from an overdose.
Beverly Kirkwood, 51, the practice’s office manager, was sentenced to six months in federal custody. She is a prisoner at a medium security facility in Victorville, Calif., according to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons website. Her release date is listed as Oct. 3, 2018.
Federal Drug Enforcement Agency agents served a federal search warrant on Oct. 4, 2012, at the David C. Kirkwood s family practice at 2838 Linden Ave. in Dayton.
In 2014, a federal grand jury indicted the Kirkwoods on 20 counts related to a conspiracy “to make as much money as possible by distributing and dispensing controlled substances,” according to indictment documents.
“Our mission is to protect Ohio’s families, and we’ve made cracking down on pill mills a priority,” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said in the press release. “David Kirkwood prescribed pills that never should have been prescribed and put his own interests above the health and safety of his patients.”
The indictment listed seven people who allegedly died soon after receiving prescription pain pills from the practice: Eula Hoskins, 58, of Dayton; Deborah Goff, 54, of Trotwood; Ronald Jackson, 54, of Dayton; Tyrone Redavide, 45, of Dayton; Gregory Spurlock, 47, of Dayton; Norma Shepherd, 59, of Trotwood; and Gary Durham, 45, of Fairborn.
“I’d just like to apologize to all my patients for anything that I did,” Dr. Kirkwood said at an earlier hearing. “I meant no malice. I never meant to hurt anybody.”