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DEA raids doctor's offices in probe of improper prescriptions

La Mirada doctor with offices in East L.A. and San Gabriel surrenders his license to prescribe drugs after DEA raid.

July 12, 2012|By Hailey Branson-Potts, Los Angeles Times
  • Dr. Andrew Sun is seen outside his East L.A. clinic last year. He surrendered his license to prescribe drugs on Wednesday after the DEA raided his offices and home.
Dr. Andrew Sun is seen outside his East L.A. clinic last year. He surrendered… (Liz O. Baylen, Los Angeles…)

Drug Enforcement Administration agents on Wednesday raided the offices of a Los Angeles County doctor suspected of improperly prescribing powerful narcotics to patients — including undercover agents — with no legitimate need for the drugs.

Dr. Andrew S.O. Sun, 76, of La Mirada, surrendered his license to prescribe controlled substances after agents with the DEA, California Medical Board, Internal Revenue Service and the state Department of Healthcare Services searched his home and clinics in East Los Angeles and San Gabriel.

Sun, a family practice doctor, routinely wrote prescriptions for drugs including OxyContin, Vicodin and Xanax to patients without properly examining them, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. He allegedly charged cash, which he pocketed in the exam room.

Sun was not charged with a crime and retained his license to practice medicine. But he remains under investigation by multiple agencies.

According to the affidavit, Sun prescribed the drugs to several investigators posing as patients indicating little or no pain. The doctor charged each agent $150 and, despite accusing them of being drug abusers and law enforcement officers, wrote them prescriptions, court papers state.

"If you want to insist on getting such a strong medicine, I'll give it to you," Sun allegedly told an agent after debating whether she needed Vicodin. "I'm just a doctor. I'm not God, OK, so I cannot say no to something that you want to do.... I can only advise you not to, but if you want to do it … I can't say no."

An Apple Valley pharmacist complained to the medical board about the suspicious nature of Sun's patients, the affidavit states. Some drove up to 80 miles to get prescriptions filled, and they filled multiple prescriptions from Sun using different patient names.

Sun insists he did nothing wrong and said doctors, not law enforcement authorities, should be the ones to determine if examinations are appropriate.

"There is no standard of what is an adequate examination," Sun said in his East L.A. clinic Wednesday afternoon. "It's a matter of opinion.... The doctor and patient should develop a mutual trust rather than a mutual suspicion."

Sun said that his home and clinics were "ransacked" and that he regrets surrendering his license to prescribe controlled substances.

Sun has been disciplined by the medical board in the past for, among other things, prescribing without proper exams and falsely altering patients' medical records. The IRS is investigating numerous bank accounts in Sun's name that have received large cash deposits, the affidavit states.

Benjamin R. Barron, a federal prosecutor, said authorities take improper prescribing cases "very seriously."

"These are very dangerous, very addictive drugs, and we entrust doctors to do their jobs as gatekeepers," Barron said. "When a doctor fails to do that and prescribes drugs not for a medical need but for money, that doctor is no different from any other drug dealer."

hailey.branson@latimes.com

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