Complaint alleges Houston-based doctor improperly gave drugs to child
By Lise Olsen and Todd Ackerman
March 28, 2012
A Houston-based psychiatrist and the state’s leading prescriber of the anti-anxiety drug Xanax is the subject of a complaint to the Texas Medical Board alleging he improperly and simultaneously prescribed four drugs to an 8-year-old, placing the child “at undue risk.”
The complaint against Dr. G.K. Ravichandran comes as the Texas Health and Human Services Commission has begun releasing to U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley results of its investigations into doctors who prescribe large quantities of pain and psychiatric medications, including to children. Ravichandran has not been specifically named in the disclosures.
“After an extensive review of prescribing habits of the serial prescribers of pain and mental health drugs in Texas, I have concerns about the oversight and enforcement of Medicaid abuse in your state,” Grassley, R-Iowa, a longtime critic of alleged overprescribing of psychotropic drugs at public expense nationwide, wrote Texas HHSC Commissioner Thomas Suehs in January. “The numbers themselves are quite shocking.”
The Texas Medical Board complaint accuses Ravichandran in December 2010 of giving his 8-year-old patient a drug used to fight Alzheimer’s disease, though there is no clinical data to show it is “safe and effective for the treatment of children with psychiatric disorders.” The other three drugs prescribed at the same time included Xanax.
The patient and mother were not identified in the March 21 complaint.
HHSC Commissioner Tom Suehs in February wrote Grassley that HHSC has opened 39 investigations, which so far have resulted in three doctors being referred to the Attorney General’s Office for criminal prosecution of Medicaid fraud, three being excluded from Medicaid participation and three being referred to the medical board for disciplinary action. Other doctors are still being investigated.
Ravichandran was identified in 2010 as the state’s most frequent Medicaid and Medicare prescriber of Xanax. He billed $180,762 for 1,751 Xanax prescriptions for his patients, according to information generated by Texas officials in response to inquiries by Grassley. Ravichandran, who has been licensed in Texas since 1979, practices in a high-rise clinic in the Hillcroft area.
His attorney in the matter, Carla J. Cox, declined comment.
The Houston Chronicle last year identified Ravichandran as one of several Houston-area physicians who had prescribed Xanax, also known as alprazolam, and other drugs to multiple patients who died of accidental prescription drug overdoses in Harris County in 2008-2009. The newspaper’s analysis showed that six patients who died of accidental drug overdoses those years received prescriptions from Ravichandran.
The medical board complaint alleges Ravichandran failed to maintain adequate records and did not justify how he had simultaneously diagnosed his 8-year-old patient with a dozen different ailments and disorders all in the same day – including attention deficit disorder, autism, bipolar disorder, language disorder, nightmare disorder, oppositional defiance disorder, pervasive developmental disorder and intermittent explosive disorder.
Certain records closed
The medical board previously restricted Ravichandran’s license from August 2002 to February 2005 based on findings that he performed geriatric psychiatric exams without proper referrals. In 2007, it ordered him to complete training after finding inadequate records for a patient.
Because state law prohibits the naming of doctors being investigated by state agencies before the matter’s conclusion, it is not known if Ravichandran is among the doctors being investigated by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.