PA Gets Prison Time for Dispensing Unneeded Addictive Drugs

A Maryland-based physician assistant was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute and dispense oxycodone, fentanyl, methadone, and alprazolam at a pain management clinic.

A US District Judge sentenced William Soyke, 68, of Hanover, Pennsylvania, for acting outside the scope of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose, according to the US Attorney’s Office in Maryland. The 37-month prison term will be followed by 3 years of supervised release.

According to the plea agreement, Soyke worked as a physician assistant with Rosen-Hoffberg Rehabilitation and Pain Management from 2011-2018, where he treated patients during follow-up doctor appointments. As a physician assistant, Soyke had privileges to prescribe controlled substance medications, but was required to operate under a delegation agreement with the Rosen-Hoffberg owners.  

In his plea, Soyke said that he believed the owners, Norman Rosen, MD, and Howard Hoffberg, MD, prescribed excessive levels of opioids. Despite Soyke’s attempts to lower patient’s prescription doses, both doctors overruled the PA’s opinion, according to the plea agreement. Also, if another healthcare provider within the practice declined to treat a patient because of the patient’s aberrant behavior — such as failing a drug screening test for illicit drugs or selling their prescriptions — Rosen and Hoffberg would assume that patient’s care, the report continued.

As stated in the plea agreement, Sokye was aware that many of the patients presenting to Rosen-Hoffberg Rehabilitation and Pain Management did not have a legitimate medical need for the oxycodone, fentanyl, alprazolam, and methadone they were being prescribed. Nevertheless, Soyke issued prescriptions for these drugs to patients without a legitimate medical need and outside the bounds of acceptable medical practice, according to the release.

Soyke also admitted that in several instances he engaged in sexual, physical contact with female patients who were attempting to get prescriptions, the plea agreement stated. Specifically, Soyke asked some female customers to engage in a range of motion test, and while they were bending over, he would position himself behind them such that his genitalia would rub against the customers’ buttocks through their clothes. These patients often submitted to this sexual abuse for fear of not getting the medications to which they were addicted, according to the press release.

Although the female patients complained to Rosen and Hoffberg about Soyke’s behavior, the doctors did not fire Soyke because the PA saw the largest number of patients at the practice and generated significant revenue, according to federal officials.

Hoffberg, the associate medical director and part-owner of the practice, pleaded guilty in June to accepting kickbacks from pharmaceutical company Insys Therapeutics in exchange for prescribing an opioid drug called Subsys (a fentanyl sublingual spray) marketed by Insys for breakthrough pain in cancer patients for off-label purposes. He will be sentenced next month and faces a maximum of 5 years in federal prison.

Soyke pled guilty to a federal drug charge in July 2019. In announcing the guilty plea then, US Attorney Robert Hur said, “Opioid overdoses are killing thousands of Marylanders each year, and opioid addiction is fueled by health care providers who prescribe drugs for people without a legitimate medical need. Doctors and other medical professionals who irresponsibly write opioid prescriptions are acting like street-corner drug pushers.”

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