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Pain Doctor Gives Up License

Dirk Shadd
Tampa Bay Times

A well-known Tampa pain specialist, Dr. David H. VanDercar, has voluntarily relinquished his license rather than fight a charge of inappropriate prescribing.

VanDercar, who operated Tampa Pain Clinic for many years, faced a state Department of Health complaint filed last year that said he over-prescribed several types of painkillers – including oxycodone, valium and methadone – to a patient identified only by his initials, JNE.  (The patient was later identified as Jeremy Eubanks, a young UPS driver who was sent to prison after being convicted of robbing pharmacies).

VanDercar and DOH prosecutors had agreed to settle the case with a $15,000 fine, reprimand and permanent ban on prescribing controlled drugs. The agreement said that by signing it the physician was not admitting wrongdoing.

When he appeared before the Florida  Board of Medicine in August, VanDercar said he had treated Eubanks appropriately and “did not see any signs of addiction from him.”  But the physician said he wanted to avoid the lengthy evidentiary process at the Division of Administrative Hearings since he had to undergo cancer surgery. He said he had sold his pain clinic and had withdrawn from practicing medicine.

Usually, the Board of Medicine accepts settlements. But at the hearing, the patient’s mother, Laurie Eubanks, persuaded them that the penalty amounted to “a slap on the wrist.”

“Dr. VanDercar will probably retire and feel no penalty,” she said at the hearing. “He’s being ordered to pay a fine that is minimal compared to the money he has made (at the pain clinic).”

After hearing from both sides, the Board of Medicine rejected the settlement. It counter-offered to resolve the case by suspending VanDercar’s license until he passed a state review of his practice.

Dr. Nabil El Sanadi of Fort Lauderdale persuaded fellow board members that the penalties in the settlement did not go far enough.

“It’s our job to protect the public,” he said. “We need to suspend these doctors and send the message that what they are doing is not OK.”

The board cannot suspend a physician who appears on a settlement agreement; it can only request that DOH prosecutors seek a suspension through a formal hearing if the physician will not agree to it. The Secretary of DOH, the surgeon general, can suspend a doctor’s license on an emergency basis if there is legal cause to do so, but even in such cases the physician can often get court permission to resume practice during the appeal.

By law, when the board gives physicians a counter-offer to the settlement, they have some time to think it over.  Ultimately VanDercar voluntarily relinquished his license, which ended the proceedings.

---Carol Gentry is the editor of Health News Florida, a service of WUSF Public Media. Contact her at (desk) 813-974-8629 or (cell) 727-410-3266 or by e-mail at cgentry@wusf.org.

Carol Gentry, founder and special correspondent of Health News Florida, has four decades of experience covering health finance and policy, with an emphasis on consumer education and protection.After serving two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Colombia, Gentry worked for a number of newspapers including The Wall Street Journal, St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times), the Tampa Tribune and Orlando Sentinel. She was a Kaiser Foundation Media Fellow in 1994-95 and earned an Master's in Public Administration at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in 1996. She directed a journalism fellowship program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for four years.Gentry created Health News Florida, an independent non-profit health journalism publication, in 2006, and served as editor until September, 2014, when she became a special correspondent. She and Health News Florida joined WUSF in 2012.
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