Robert Dragert, New Jersey Psychiatrist, suspended, fined $30K – “overprescribed opioid medications with reckless abandon”

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The Trentonian
Princeton doctor overprescribes opioids, must pay $30K fine and serve 2-year suspension
By Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman
October 18, 2018

Psychiatrist Robert Dragert

Psychiatrist Robert Dragert

TRENTON — Dr. Robert J. Dragert had the hallmarks of a great career: Elite certifications, upward mobility and no shortage of patients.

But the good doctor turned bad, overprescribing opioid medications with reckless abandon and contributing to the national public health emergency, forcing the state to punish him.

Dragert has been suspended from medical practice and ordered to pay a $30,000 civil penalty for failing to properly manage the opioid dependence of his patients.

The Princeton psychiatrist will be sidelined for two years for prescribing controlled dangerous substances to his patients without appropriate screening or medical justification, according to a recent consent order issued by the New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners.

Dragert, who began working as a Princeton House Behavioral Health medical director several years ago, is a doctor of osteopathy who had prescribed opioids without sufficient justification when he worked in private practice with Dr. John Wilkins, according to the consent order filed Sept. 26.

The state ordered Dragert to return his New Jersey medical license and his New Jersey controlled dangerous substance or CDS registration to the appropriate authorities immediately. And within the first six months of his suspension, Dragert must attend and successfully complete a course on medical ethics and must pass another course on CDS prescribing and record keeping.

“Over-prescribing of opioids has contributed to rising rates of opioid addiction and overdoses,” according to opioids.gov, which says drug overdose deaths “are now the leading cause of injury death in the United States.”

The Enforcement Bureau of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs performed an inspection of Dragert’s former office and issued a subpoena for patient records on May 6, 2017, due to allegations he had been “indiscriminately prescribing controlled dangerous substances (‘CDS’) without the appropriate medical justification,” the consent order states.

Dragert shared an office with Dr. Wilkins on Saturdays and received half of the earnings of the practice but lacked control over the staff or office infrastructure, according to the consent order, which cites findings from the state’s inspection and review of subpoenaed records.

Dragert appeared before a preliminary evaluation committee of the State Board of Medical Examiners on Oct. 25, 2017, and discussed his opioid prescription transgressions.

The board ultimately determined that Dragert “did not have sufficient control of the office or staff while in private practice with Dr. Wilkins” and further “determined that despite inquiries from the police, recognition that patients were becoming aggressive and unwilling to follow appropriate CDS prescribing protocol and his own acknowledgement that he was not appropriately managing the opioid dependence of his patients, Respondent continued to prescribe CDS without the appropriate screening and/or medical justification.”

Dragert, also referred to as “Respondent” in the consent order, “is no longer working in private practice,” according to the Board of Medical Examiners, “and is exclusively working at Princeton House, under the appropriate supervision and office infrastructure.”

Under the consent order, which Dragert signed, the doctor “shall not enter the premises of his former medical practice during business hours when patients may be present during his period of active suspension.”

“During the period of active suspension,” the consent order reads, “Respondent shall cease and desist all patient contact at any location and the rendering of medical care, including the issuance of any prescriptions for, or dispensation of, medications of any kind, including but not limited to controlled dangerous substances.”

Dragert’s two-year suspension places him on 12 months of active suspension to be followed by 12 months of probation. The order permits Dragert to pay his $30,000 civil penalty over the course of 24 consecutive months in monthly installments of $1,250 beginning Oct. 1.

The consent order allows Dragert to return to group practice in two years if he complies with the conditions of suspension, but he is permanently barred from practicing medicine solo.

Dragert was named medical director of dual diagnosis services in the inpatient department of the acclaimed Princeton House Behavioral Health location in Princeton several years ago, according to Princeton House’s winter 2015 newsletter.

“Dr. Dragert’s previous positions include dual diagnosis specific positions in inpatient and outpatient services,” the PHBH newsletter says. “Board certified in addiction medicine and psychiatry, he was Director of Psychiatry at High Focus’s Cranford site prior to joining PHBH.”

An online verification search confirms Dragert is a certified psychiatrist with the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology Inc. and is certified in addiction medicine, through examination, by the American Board of Addiction Medicine Inc.

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Robert Dragert