SACRAMENTO — California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today announced the arraignment and surrender of Dr. Po Long Lew for unlawfully prescribing sedatives and muscle relaxants to his patients without a medical purpose. Dr. Lew allegedly prescribed benzodiazepines such as Xanax, and carisoprodols such as Soma without first completing a legitimate physical exam of his patients and without his patients demonstrating a medical need. He was arraigned today in Los Angeles Superior Court.
“The opioid epidemic continues even as we face the COVID pandemic. We know overprescribing opioids or other medications, or prescribing them to patients without a legitimate medical reason, can have deadly consequences,” said Attorney General Becerra. “We must act when doctors go against their oath not to do harm and instead put their patients’ health in danger. The California Department of Justice will continue to prosecute those who are alleged to have abused our healthcare system at the expense of their patients.”
Working out of his medical practice in Rosemead, the complaint alleges that between December 2018 and October 2019, Dr. Lew prescribed the muscle relaxant Soma, and two sedatives, Xanax and Ativan to patients individually or in combinations of two of the three medications. Benzodiazepines (sedatives) and carisoprodols (muscle relaxants) are known to cause a dangerous drug interaction when taken with opioids. They are especially dangerous because each of the medications depress the central nervous system and a person’s ability to breathe. The three medications together are known to those addicted to prescription medication as the “Holy Trinity,” and are highly sought out on the street. Dr. Lew is charged with ten counts of Unlawful Prescribing Without Medical Purpose, in violation of Health & Safety Code Section 11153.
The case stems from an investigation conducted by the California Department of Justice’s Division of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse (DMFEA). Through the DMFEA, the Attorney General’s office works to protect Californians by investigating and prosecuting those who perpetuate fraud on the Medi-Cal program. DMFEA also investigates and prosecutes those responsible for abuse, neglect, and fraud committed against elderly and dependent adults in the state. DMFEA regularly works with whistleblowers, the California Department of Health Care Services, and law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute.
It is important to note that a criminal complaint contains charges that are only allegations against a person. Every defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
A copy of the complaint is available here.
The DMFEA receives 75 percent of its funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under a grant award totaling $33,829,000 for Federal fiscal year 2019-2020. The remaining 25 percent, totaling $11,379,000 for fiscal year 2019-20, is funded by the State of California. The Federal fiscal year is defined as October 1, 2019, through September 30, 2020.