Lawrence doctor charged with writing illegal prescriptions, billing fraud

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May 16—SALEM, Mass. — A Lawrence doctor indicted for illegally prescribing controlled substances, including opiates, faces arraignment in Salem Superior Court this week.

Dr. Ramon Suarez-Martinez, the former medical director of the Lawrence Medical Center at 320 Essex St., is charged with "illegally prescribing drugs to substance-use disorder and chronic pain patients," Attorney General Maura Healey announced.

A Methuen resident, Suarez-Martinez was affiliated with the Lawrence Medical Center and Lawrence General Hospital but no longer holds a license to practice medicine, according to a statement released by Healey.

The indictments against Suarez-Martinez include amphetamines, benzodiazepines, and morphine sulfate. He is also accused of defrauding the state's Medicaid program (MassHealth), Healey said.

Suarez-Martinez, 69, was indicted Wednesday by the Essex County grand jury on charges of Illegal Prescribing of a Controlled Substance (12 counts, in connection with six patients) and six counts of filing false Medicaid claims.

He is scheduled to be arraigned in Salem Superior Court on Thursday.

"The investigation revealed that in many instances, Suarez-Martinez prescribed controlled substances to his patients including amphetamines, benzodiazepines, and morphine sulfate, even when he knew from repeated urine drug screens that they were not taking the drugs," according to a statement released by Healey's office.

Suarez-Martinez "knowingly prescribed drugs such as clonazepam, a benzodiazepine; amphetamines; and morphine sulfate, an opiate; for no legitimate medical purpose and not in the usual course of professional practice, and that these illegal prescriptions resulted in false claims billed to and paid for by MassHealth," according to the statement.

In several instances, urine drug screens indicated that patients were negative for the prescribed medications but positive for illicit substances such as cocaine or fentanyl.

In spite of those screens, Dr. Suarez-Martinez allegedly continued to prescribe to those patients without addressing the illicit drug use or altering the treatment plan in any meaningful way, according to Healey.

Staff reporter Julie Manganis contributed to this story.

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.