A southwest Missouri lawmaker facing federal charges had her narcotics license put on probation for three years and admitted to buying and prescribing drugs illegally in an agreement reached with the state health department.
The settlement, agreed to in late January between Rep. Tricia Derges, a Nixa Republican, and the Department of Health and Senior Services, says Derges prescribed oxycodone, amphetamines and other unauthorized drugs at her clinics, breaking state and federal laws. It was first obtained and reported by the Missouri Independent and the Documenting COVID-19 project.
Derges is accused in federal court of having sold fake stem cell treatments, fraudulently using pandemic aid, writing illegal prescriptions and lying to federal investigators, a total of 23 federal charges. She has denied wrongdoing and awaits a jury trial in Springfield in June. A judge ruled last month that Derges' request for the charges to be dismissed was "frivolous and unsupported by law."
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The lawmaker, who operates health clinics throughout southwest Missouri focused on low-income residents, told state investigators she was not taught controlled substance law at her medical school and "took prompt corrective measures" when she learned of the violations.
Derges' attorney, Al Watkins, called the agreement "very favorable" and said her mistakes "were absolutely a function of a flawed oversight system that relates to assistant physicians."
He also alleged that the investigation "appears to have been triggered or incited or performed at the request of the federal government," calling it "the pile-on effect." The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Missouri declined to comment on the matter. The Department of Health and Senior Services was not contacted by the federal government, spokesperson Lisa Cox said.
"The Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs has its own jurisdiction and processes," Cox said.
The settlement agreement says Derges also purchased and stocked the narcotic tramadol illegally; she had the drug at her Branson and Ozark clinics, both of which did not have the required substance registration numbers with the state.
Under the agreement, she is allowed to request to have her license taken off probation after two years.
Derges has been expelled from the House Republican caucus and stripped of her committee assignments, but has been present in Jefferson City during the legislative session. She still has no intention of resigning from her seat, Watkins said.
This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Lawmaker admits illegal prescriptions, has license put on probation