Overdose Deaths Contribute to Probation for Dr. Doanh Andrew Nguyen’s Medical License

The bad doctor is in. Illustration by Matt Coker

The medical license of a Westminster pain management specialist has been placed on probation for five years over his treatment or over-prescribing of addictive drugs to six patients, including five who died from drug overdoses or with lethal combinations of controlled substances in their systems. 

Dr. Doanh Andrew Nguyen should have recognized the “red flags” that indicated most of these patients were addicts using him to obtain addictive drugs, according to the Medical Board of California, whose order against his license went into effect on Friday, according to state documents.

Click here to read the order.

This bio for Nguyen was dug up online:

Dr. Daonh A. Nguyen became involved in his profession after graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering from UCLA. He switched to medicine once he answered what he felt was a personal calling to go into medicine and healthcare. He currently specializes in pain relief for terminally ill patients, terminal care, and the treatment of all patients who are experiencing pain. Dr. Nguyen is a recipient of the Patients’ Choice 5th Anniversary Award as granted by Vitals in 2012, and he received Vitals’ Patients’ Choice Award for four consecutive years (2008-2012). He is a member of the American Board of anesthesiology, the American Board of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, the American Board of Pain Medicine, the California Society of Anesthesiologists, and the American Academy of Pain Management.

With the Dec. 5 signatures of Nguyen and his attorney Raymond J. McMahon to a medical board acceptance letter, they acknowledge that the facts to follow are correct.

The board found gross negligence with Nguyen’s care for five patients, repeated negligent acts with those patients as well as a sixth and prescribing addictive medications to all of them without adequate examinations or indications that those drugs were right for their symptoms and medical histories.

“M.F.,” a 65-year-old man, was treated by Nguyen from Aug. 3-Sept. 29, 2011.

M.F. died on Sept. 30, 2011.

He went to see Nguyen with a history of drug and alcohol related arrests, current enrollment in a drug treatment program and a sister who would tell medical board investigators that her brother was a heroin and prescription drug addict. M.F. complained to Nguyen of pain to his left arm, shoulders, lower back and right leg stump following a knee amputation. The doctor diagnosed the patient with spine, shoulder and right stump pain, opiod dependecy and depression/anxiety disorder.

The state database showed that in the four months before M.F. saw Nguyen, he had received prescriptions from five physicians for Klonopin, Vicodin, morphine, Ambien, OxyContin and percocet, which were filled at four pharmacies. In the eight and a half weeks between seeing Nguyen and his death, M.F. got 10 prescriptions for controlled drugs, including six from the physician and four from three other colleagues that were filled at three pharmacies. Many of Nguyen’s scripts were for larger quantities of opiates.

M.F.’s autopsy revealed he died from a combined overdose of Klonopin, methadone, hydrocodone, dihydrocodeine, Prozac and Seroquel. 

“B.C.” was a 52-year-old man Nguyen treated from July 8, 2005, through Oct. 21, 2011, with the last date being four days before his death. He’d had a history of drug and alcohol use since childhood and had stopped taking heroin 10 years before his first visit, when he complained mostly about chronic pain.

In the eight months before B.C.’s last appointment with Nguyen, he’d received prescriptions from a total of eight physicians and other providers that were filled at five different pharmacies. All were for large amounts of methadone, Klonopin and Xanax. As for Nguyen’s specific care, the medical board says it remained mostly unchanged, although it appeared the doctor did try to reduce the dosages. But there was no evidence the benzodiazepines, especially methadone and Klonopin, were helpful in treating B.C.’s pain.

Prescription medications and a nearly full bottle of vodka were found at the time of B.C.’s death. The autopsy showed he had multiple drugs in his system, especially methadone and benzodiazepines.

“R.A.” was a 45-year-old woman Nguyen treated for pain, arthritis and anxiety from July 16, 2008, through Jan. 19, 2012. Over that span, he prescribed her Vicodin, percocet, Gabapentin, Halcion and Xanax–but she also saw other doctors who wrote her scripts for controlled substances. She’d told one she was seeing a psychiatrist to detox from opiates. For a complaint of “tennis elbow,” Nguyen prescribed her Viodin and percocet. She died from a drug overdose six days after her last visit to him.

“J.A.” was a 32-year-old man who saw Nguyen from Feb. 15, 2007, through Nov. 7, 2012, initially for lower back pain. J.A. asked for prescriptions of Oxycodone and Soma and Nguyen obliged while adding in the anti-inflammatory medication Feldene. 

Between Feb. 3-Nov. 7 of 2011, Nguyen wrote J.A. 37 prescriptions, mostly for OxyContin and Roxicodone as well as a few for Soma and one for Halcion. J.A. died from a drug overdose on Nov. 9, 2012. The autopsy showed acute polydrug intoxication.

“M.O.,” a 28-year-old man the same doctor saw from Sept. 9, 2007-July 17, 2014, complained of back and shoulder pain but said he was already taking five to six Norco pills a day. Nguyen prescribed exercise, Feldene, Ultram and 150 more tablets of Norco. Had Nguyen checked the state prescription database, he would have learned that several other physicians were already writing M.O. scripts for Norco. A letter Nguyen received on April 1, 2008, from a pharmacy benefits management company listed as the drugs eight different physicians prescribed M.O. over the same three-month period as percocet, Vicodin, Norco and Darvocet.

Nguyen heard complaints from M.O. throughout their time together of pain, but the patient continued to skateboard, snowboard and perform other strenuous activities that contradicted his medical complaints and need for pain medications. On July 17, 2009, M.O. asked Nguyen for Opana because Norco was not proving effective. A month later, Nguyen added Opana to M.O.’s prescription, which already included Norco and Xanax.

The medical board says the patients’ multiple prescriptions should have been “red flags” for drug seeking and addiction. The state agency also faulted Nguyen for illegible patient records and compiling inadequate addiction histories, urine toxicology screenings, psychiatric histories and documentation of the medical needs for the addictive drugs he prescribed. In many cases, the state says, Nguyen failed to get to the bottom of what was causing all the pain. This, the board said, were extreme departures from the standard of care.

A second cause of board discipline was for repeated negligent acts with the previous five patients as well as “T.T.H.,” a 47-year-old woman Nguyen treated from May 1, 2009, through March 26, 2012, for severe scar pain and abnormal liver enzymes. During the last year of T.T.H.’s care under Nguyen, she was receiving 32 prescriptions from him and three other providers that were filled at three pharmacies. Nguyen alone wrote her 21 scripts for morphine and MS Contin. She died on Aug. 23, 2012, from acute polydrug intoxication.

Other causes of discipline for Nguyen were for inadequate records and prescribing without exams and indications for all six patients and incompetence, excessive prescribing and prescribing to addicts for five of them.

Under the terms of his probation, he must surrender his Drug Enforcement Agency permit and successfully complete a competency program before he practices medicine again. Until that program ends, he is prohibited from ordering, prescribing, dispensing, administering, furnishing or possessing any controlled substances, and he cannot issue an oral or written recommendation or approval to a patient or a caregiver for the possession or cultivation of marijuana for personal medical purposes.

During his probation, he must maintain records of controlled substances he orders, prescribes, dispenses, administers and possesses, and the board must have access to his records and inventories at all times. He must also obey all laws, allow the board to monitor his practice, submit quarterly progress reports to the board, refrain from supervising physician assistants and advanced practice nurses and successfully complete ethics, medical education, prescribing practices and record keeping courses. 

Failure to abide by the probation conditions could cause license revocation proceedings to begin.

7 Replies to “Overdose Deaths Contribute to Probation for Dr. Doanh Andrew Nguyen’s Medical License”

  1. I saw dr nguyen for over ten years and he is a great doctor. he cares about his patients. it is the fault of the people using him for their addictions who all knew better , knew the risks they were taking and I can not believe that they were not educated enough to know not to drink alcohol with opiate medicine. all this does ias take a good doctor away from people who need him

  2. Because of doctor Nguyen’s stupid mistakes, I can no longer receive adequate medication from him; I must bear the brunt of his oversights! And it really stinks. Now I’ve got to go out and look for another pain doctor which could take me months to find one who will help me since they’re also cowardly. They’re more concerned about preserving their reputation than helping patients anymore. It’s a damn shame!

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