From The Trussville Tribune staff reports
BIRMINGHAM – A Madison County physician pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to charges related to illegally distributing and dispensing prescription drugs, said U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town and Drug Enforcement Administration Assistant Special Agent in Charge Clay Morris.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Dr. Rodney Morris, 64, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Annemarie Carney Axon to 64 counts of illegally distributing and dispensing Schedule II controlled substances, including opioid painkillers, outside the scope of professional medical practice and not for legitimate medical purposes. Instead, the evidence shows that Dr. Morris prescribed these painkillers in exchange for sexual favors and monetary gain. He is scheduled for sentencing on Oct. 23, 2019.
“The public should be able to trust that a medical professional would not engage in such aberrant and disgusting conduct,” said Town. “Those who choose to engage in such illicit practices will no longer wear white coats, but instead prison stripes.”
“Unfortunately, Dr. Morris and his criminal conduct represents a disturbing trend in the medical profession for those practitioners who abandon their Hippocratic Oath,” said DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Clay Morris. “Dr. Morris’ actions clearly contributed to continuing the opioid epidemic that is plaguing our communities and country. He will soon be where he belongs…in prison. The DEA, U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners will not stand idly by and allow criminals to profit off of the addictions of others.”
The U.S. Department of Justice said Dr. Morris was known to give preferential treatment to female patients when it came to office visits, drug testing (or lack thereof), and prescriptions of controlled substances. Records show that between August 2012 and May 2017, Dr. Morris illegally prescribed one particular patient hydrocodone, alprazolam, oxycodone and tramadol in exchange of sexual favors. This patient illegally sold some of these drugs to supplement her income. After the patient’s death in May 2017, Dr. Morris attempted to delete electronic medical records and erase evidence of her being his patient.
According to the Alabama Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, Dr. Morris ranked 67 out of 13,118 medical doctors in the state of Alabama for the number of prescriptions filled for Schedule II, III, IV and V controlled substances. He also ranked seventh in Madison County for the quantity of controlled substances prescribed. From Jan. 1, 2017 through June 27, 2017, Dr. Morris wrote 6,721 prescriptions for controlled substances with the total dosage units being 499,784, said the U.S. Department of Justice.
The penalty for illegally dispensing and distributing prescription drugs is a maximum of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $1,000,000.
DEA investigated the case, which Assistant U.S Attorney Mary Stuart Burrell is prosecuting.