California psychiatrist Wayne Funk, target of prescription drug probe, surrenders license

November 23, 2009

EL CAJON — An El Cajon psychiatrist has surrendered his medical license to California authorities after investigators said he collected unused prescription drugs, including addictive pain pills, from some patients and handed them out to others.

Dr. Wayne A. Funk, 87, gave up his license last week, a spokeswoman for the Medical Board of California said Monday. He graduated from the University of Kansas School of Medicine in 1947 and was licensed to practice in California in 1954, according to medical board records.

Funk, who says he was the first psychiatrist to set up practice in East County, said Monday that he was trying to help his patients who were poor and couldn’t afford full-priced medications.

“It’s painful to go out with a cloud over your head, but I know what I’ve done. I had a great practice,” he said.

When federal drug enforcement agents inspected Funk’s office at 2606 Fletcher Parkway on Jan. 15, 2008, they found recycled oxycodone, diazepam, lorazepam and temazepam, according to a medical board complaint against the physician. The drugs are typically prescribed to treat pain, anxiety and insomnia.

At that time, the medical board already had opened its own investigation of Funk after receiving a complaint from another doctor who was treating a patient for addiction to Xanax. Funk had raised suspicion by prescribing large quantities of the anxiety drug to the patient.

Xanax is a powerful sedative and a popular recreational drug.

Over a two-month period in fall 2007, Funk signed off on 880 Xanax pills for the patient, according to a California Department of Justice database system that tracks prescriptions of controlled substances.

Investigators said Funk committed gross negligence by excessively prescribing drugs and prescribing them without appropriately examining patients or establishing a medical need for the treatments.

Funk told investigators that he recycled old drugs to make them more affordable to other patients. Old bottles were kept in a basket on a counter and inside a drawer.

Funk’s attorney, Robert Frank, said his client paid a price for habits that long ago became outdated because of changes in regulations and professional standards.

“It became a regulatory morass for him to catch up to and practice within,” Frank said. “This isn’t a guy who made a bunch of money and preyed on people.”

Funk chose to surrender his license and retire rather than fight the charges in a hearing before the medical board.

“Patients will often give (their medication) away or sell it,” Funk said. “These are the things that the medical board is really gung-ho about. I recognize that time and the tide catches up with an old man.”

The board last year disciplined 28 doctors for inappropriately prescribing drugs, representing about 10 percent of the agency’s successful cases, board spokeswoman Candis Cohen said.

Funk closed his practice on June 30. “I’m a golfer,” he said. “I’m very active in my church, and I’ll get on with my honey-do list at home.”

Source: Keith Darcé, "Psychiatrist in drug probe gives up license," San Diego Union Tribune, November 24, 2009.


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