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Pain doctor's office raided in prescription drug abuse probe

March 23, 2013|By Lisa Girion and Scott Glover
  • Federal agents have raided the offices of Dr. John Dimowo, suspected of prescribing narcotic painkillers and other medications to patients who had no legitimate need for them. He is shown in his Anaheim office in April 2012.
Federal agents have raided the offices of Dr. John Dimowo, suspected of… (Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles…)

Federal authorities Friday raided the office of a doctor suspected of prescribing narcotic painkillers and other widely abused medications to patients who had no legitimate need for them.

Undercover agents posed as patients at John Dimowo's offices in Wilmington and Anaheim and were able to get prescriptions for addictive drugs without the doctor examining them, the affidavit states.

Dimowo, a pain doctor featured last year in a Times investigation into prescription overdose deaths, is a prolific prescriber of painkillers, such as Vicodin, writing an average of at least 37 prescriptions a day, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Dimowo, who has not been arrested or charged with a crime and remains free to practice, declined to discuss the investigation.

"I cannot talk to you," he said when contacted by telephone. "Call my attorney."

Lawyers for Dimowo did not return calls requesting comment.

Since at least 2011, the medical board has received complaints about Dimowo's practice from family members of patients, pharmacists and others who believed Dimowo's prescriptions were fueling his patients' addictions, according to the affidavit.

The Times reported in November that five of Dimowo's patients fatally overdosed on medications he prescribed between 2009 and 2010, coroner's records show. They ranged in age from 26 to 59.

According to the affidavit, investigators were seeking the medical records of patients who "possibly died of overdosing on prescription medication." The medical board had obtained a list of dead patients from the Orange County coroner's office after The Times' report, the affidavit said.

Dimowo, a native of Nigeria, was trained in anesthesiology and pain management in the United States. He is board-certified in both specialties. In 2007, after serving as a chief of anesthesia at Anaheim Regional Medical Center, he opened his pain management practice because he wanted to spend time with patients and help ease their suffering, Dimowo said in an interview with The Times last year.

It can be difficult, he said, to tell whether someone truly needs narcotic painkillers or is simply looking to get high.

"Pain is a difficult thing to define," he said in the interview. "You can't say, 'No. You don't have pain.... You're just seeking drugs.' It's very difficult to tell anybody that."

But if he believes a patient is abusing drugs, he said, "they are out of my clinic. I would send them to a psychiatrist, because that's where they belong."

Informed of the fatal overdoses identified by The Times, he said the patients and their family members shared responsibility.

"We all need to be vigilant," he said.

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