Alabama Psychiatrist James Edwards Indicted on Federal Controlled Substance Charges

August 2, 2019

MONTGOMERY, AL - A federal grand jury indicted Dr. James Henry Edwards on three drug distribution counts for reportedly prescribing controlled substances to patients without a medical need.

Edwards was arrested in July; agents served search warrants at his offices in Opelika and Gulf Shores.

While Edwards’ indictment was handed down by a grand jury in Alabama’s Middle District, the search warrant was signed by a judge in the Southern District. According to the search warrant, a physician and pharmacists lodged complaints against Edwards as early as 2016 over his alleged excessive prescribing habits.

According to the affidavit, DEA agents spoke to pharmacists at eleven different pharmacies, seven in Opelika and four in Gulf Shores, who shared similar accounts of Edwards' prescribing habits.

Multiple pharmacists indicated they contacted Edwards directly to share their concerns. One pharmacist said she was told not to question the doctor, he told another the patient needed the medications. According to one account, Wal-Mart has a corporate policy against filling Edwards’ prescriptions based on his “prescribing practices.”

The search warrant cites the DEA received another complaint in the spring of 2019 from a mother whose son took his own life. The mother had written letters to Edwards as she suspected her son was abusing drugs. The affidavit says the week before her son passed away she contacted Edwards' office about his erratic behavior. He saw Edwards days before his death and received a prescription for Xanax. She felt Edwards' prescribing habits contributed to his death.

The Alabama Board of Medical Examiners investigated Edwards in 2017. They subpoenaed 12 patient files. An expert who reviewed those files found 11 of the 12 patients were prescribed excessive dosages of stimulants. The documentation in the medical records was described as “barely minimal”, lacking justification for the prescriptions, and the records showed none of the patients were drug tested. Eight of the 12 patients received “hazardously high” doses of medications, two patients received pain medication from another provider but Edwards didn’t attempt to obtain those records. Edwards entered a settlement agreement with the Board in January 2019, which included a trial period of prescribing guidelines and documentation. The expert who analyzed the files stated the patients were young, and some were driving a long distance to see Edwards.

Three of those files are referenced in the current indictment. No word if the evidence gathered in the search warrants executed earlier this month will also be presented to a grand jury.

Edwards appeared in court in Montgomery on July 31st and pleaded not guilty to three counts of federal drug distribution.

Edwards appeared in court and left without an attorney. He requested court-appointed counsel, however it’s unclear whether he meets the qualifications. A lawyer stood in during Edwards’ arraignment.

Edwards declined to comment following his hearing. He’s scheduled to stand trial in late 2019.

Source: “Doctor pleads not guilty to federal drug distribution counts,” WSFA TV-12 (Montgomery, AL), July 30, 2019 and “Opelika doctor indicted on federal drug distribution counts,” WFSA TV-12, July 22, 2019.


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