For the third time since 1983, an Orem physician with a history of allegedly overprescribing potent pain killers to drug addicts, including a case that resulted in charges of manslaughter against him, has had his licenses to practice and prescribe sanctioned by the state.
Dr. William Seldon Owens has agreed not to renew his license to administer and prescribe medicine and has agreed to have his license to practice medicine placed on five years' probation to settle the latest round of allegations filed against him by the state Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing.The stipulation between Owens and the division said if Owens violates his probation, his license could be revoked or restricted with further sanctions. But that condition was mentioned in two previous stipulated probations Owens is accused of violating.
Having three separate cases against the same physician is "unusual and it's of grave concern to us," said division director David Robinson, noting that Owens will be closely monitored by licensing investigators.
Robinson said probation violations are serious and are grounds for revocation, but an assessment of the most recent charges brought against Owens found that a lengthy hearing before the physicians licensing board or negotiating a settlement would bring about the same result. He said that in his four years as director he has never seen a more restrictive probation than what Owens has agreed to.
"It's a very unique order. We have painted Dr. Owens in a very tight box in terms of the drugs he can prescribe."
Owens will be able to continue his practice of family medicine and obstetrics but will be restricted to prescribing a limited number of drugs that don't include addictive pain killers, according to a division stipulation and order settling the 2-year-old complaint.
The first action filed against Owens was in 1983, when licensing regulators accused him of prescribing and administering controlled substances to drug-addicted patients in excess of medically recognized doses. Owens settled those charges in April 1984 by agreeing to revocation of one section of his controlled-substances license and placing others on a one-year probation.
Exactly one year later a second petition was filed against Owens accusing him of violating his probation by continuing to overprescribe addictive drugs to drug-addicted patients. One particular instance mentioned in the petition involved a patient dying of an overdose of drugs prescribed by Owens. The patient's family warned Owens that she was abusing the drugs he had prescribed, the petition said.
Criminal manslaughter and drug distribution charges were filed against Owens, but they were later dropped.
The petition also accused Owens of unprofessional conduct regarding the treatment of patients. In one case, the petition said Owens fondled a female patient who happened to also be an investigator for the Bureau of Medicaid Fraud.
Owens settled that petition two years later with another stipulation that placed his licenses to practice medicine and prescribe controlled substances on a five-year probation, allowing him to continue practicing with restrictions and under supervision.
In August of 1988 a third petition was filed against Owens by the division, again accusing him of prescribing addictive drugs to addicts in excess of what was prudent for treating their symptoms. He was also accused of falsely billing Medicaid.
One instance of overprescribing mentioned in the petition involved the drug Soma, a muscle relaxant and pain killer. The petition said Owens prescribed enough Soma for a patient to take six tablets a day for a month, while the recommended dosage of Soma is four tablets per day.
In a response to the allegation, Owens said the dosages of Soma were not excessive considering the condition of the patient and that some of the prescriptions were given to replace pills that were lost or stolen.