California Medical Board Reprimands Psychiatrist Geoffrey DiBella over Controlled Substance Prescribing; Has Prior Drug-Related Felony Conviction

January 30, 2024

On September 15, 2023, the Medical Board of California publicly reprimanded psychiatrist Geoffrey DiBella for gross negligence, repeated negligent acts, and failure to maintain adequate and accurate records. 

This disciplinary action was based on finding regarding DiBella’s treatment of three patients (Patients A, B, and C) to whom he prescribed controlled substances between 2009 and 2020. The Board found that during that period, he maintained sparse and incomplete records for all three patients.

DiBella committed gross negligence in his care and treatment of Patient A, which included, but was not limited to, providing monthly prescriptions for controlled substances between July 2017 and February 2020, but only documenting six clinical visits with the patient throughout that period.

DiBella committed repeated negligent acts in his care of Patient B. Between January 2018 and July 2019, DiBella prescribed Patient B Xanax and clonazepam. Throughout that time, Patient B's chart did not include a documented reason for simultaneously prescribing the patient two benzodiazepines.

DiBella prescribed opioid pain medications to Patient C without a documented reason, and he maintained sparse and incomplete treatment records. Among other things, he failed to include a discussion with the patient’s other specialists regarding their coordination of Patient C’s care.

This is not the first time DiBella has been in trouble over his prescribing of controlled substances:

On August 7, 1985, DiBella was found guilty by a New York jury of two felony counts of distributing, dispensing, and delivering controlled substances not in good faith. He was sentenced on July 2, 1986 to two years in prison and two years’ special parole after incarceration, as well as a $5,000 fine.

DiBella and other co-conspirator doctors ran five “insomnia clinics” in New York City for which DiBella wrote more than 99% of the prescriptions for the sedative Quaalude, a controlled substance. In all, the doctors at these clinics dispensed in excess of 11,500 prescriptions for Quaalude, authorizing pharmacies to distribute and dispense a total of approximately 615,000 dosage units (300 mg. per dose). These prescriptions were written ostensibly to address patients’ sleep disorders, but the “patients” were in fact drug abusers. These clinics were used to distribute prescriptions for Quaalude to any person, virtually without restriction, who was willing to pay the clinic a fee of $150 to $200 per visit.

Between November 10, 1981, and February 18, 1982, DiBella unlawfully, intentionally, and knowingly did cause to be distributed and dispensed, outside of the scope of professional medical practice, approximately 645 prescriptions (an average of about 65 prescriptions per day) for approximately 33,240 dosage units of Quaaludes to persons purportedly under his care for the treatment of sleep disorders. 

He distributed 5,000 doses of Quaalude between March 1, 1982, and June 30, 1982, from his private “insomnia clinic.” 

On May 16, 1988, the Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine ordered the automatic suspension of the license of Geoffrey DiBella due to being convicted of a felony in New York by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. (Under Pennsylvania law, a licensed physician shall automatically be suspended upon conviction of a felony.)  

DiBella spent 18 months in federal custody from January of 1987 until June of 1988. Following his release, he relocated to California, where he had been licensed to practice medicine 1971.

On January 17, 1989, The Medical Board of California revoked his license relative to his federal conviction. However, the revocation was stayed, and his license was placed on probation for 10 years.  

On May 10, 1996, the California Board granted DiBella’s petition for termination of his probationary license and he was granted an unconditional license. The Board deemed his probation complete.

Source: Decision in the Matter of the Accusation Against Geoffrey Angelo DiBella, M.D., Physician's & Surgeon's Certificate No. G 21681, Case No. 800-2020-064569, Medical Board of California, Aug. 17, 2023, Notice of Automatic Suspension in the Matter of the Automatic Suspension of the License to Practice Medicine and Surgery of Geoffrey Angelo Willison DiBella, M.D., License No. MD-030035-E, Docket #86-49-01278, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of State Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs, May 16, 1988.


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