Opelika-Auburn News
Opelika psychiatrist was under investigation for more than a year
By Sara Palczewski
July 15, 2019

Opelika psychiatrist James EdwardsThe Opelika psychiatrist facing federal drug charges previously was punished by the state medical examiners board for excessively dispensing stimulant medication, according to records obtained by the Opelika-Auburn News.

Dr. James Edwards III was being investigated by the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners for more than a year prior to his arrest in connection to over-prescribing stimulant medications, according to a May 2018 “Order to Show Cause” filed by the board.

Edwards was arrested Thursday and is charged with unlawful distribution of a controlled substance.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Montgomery claims Edwards “was issuing prescriptions for controlled substances without legitimate medical reasons,” Doug Howard, spokesman with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Montgomery said.

The board began an investigation of Edwards and had an expert review 12 patient records during the course of the investigation, according to the Show Cause order.

The investigation and the expert review revealed Edwards committed three violations that pertain to controlled substances, it states.

Edwards is said to have dispensed “excessive dosages and amounts of stimulant medication to all 12 patients” whose charts were reviewed.

He is also said to have dispensed “controlled substances in amounts not reasonably related to the proper medical management of the patients’ illnesses or condition to eight patients” whose charts were reviewed, the documents states. Edwards dispensed “controlled substances for no legitimate medical purpose to 10 patients.”

A January 2019 Joint Stipulation and Consent Order filed by the board states it interviewed Edwards in February 2018 in regard to his prescribing of controlled substances.

The joint stipulation was entered into as a settlement between Edwards and the board as a compromise and to avoid further litigation, according to the document.

The document expressly states that Edwards denies the allegations in the Order to Show Cause and that he is not guilty of the allegations.

The board placed Edwards on probation for a minimum of two years. Also, the board lists 14 conditions to the agreement including only prescribing stimulants to patients with ADHD and limiting the daily dosage of stimulants for ADHD patients, both adult and pediatric, according to the document.

Edwards made his initial court appearance Thursday afternoon before a federal judge at the federal courthouse in Montgomery, where he was formally charged.

Edwards is in the custody of the U.S. Marshals as he awaits a detention hearing, which is set for Monday afternoon, Howard said.

“We (the U.S. Attorney’s Office) moved to detain him unless he surrendered his license to practice medicine and relinquished his right to prescribe medications,” Howard said Thursday. “He has to fill out some paperwork to do both of those and he and his attorneys requested a detention hearing to consider that.”

Edwards will be detained until the hearing Monday and will remain in the custody of the U.S. Marshals.

The DEA began Thursday morning executing its search warrants of Edwards’ offices in Opelika and in Gulf Shores. The searches were considered complete Thursday night, Howard said.

Edwards’ Opelika office is located off Executive Park Drive in Opelika.