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Baltimore County physician assistant admits to overprescribing opioids, having sexual contact with patients

A Baltimore County physician assistant pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute several prescription drugs as he admitted he helped prescribe several opioids, including fentanyl, not for legitimate medical purposes, and engaged in sexual contact with some of his female clients.

William Soyke, 66, of Hanover, Pa., pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and dispense oxycodone, fentanyl, methadone and alprazolam while he was a physician assistant at the Rosen-Hoffberg Rehabilitation and Pain Management clinic in Towson.

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According to a plea agreement, Soyke overprescribed opioid painkillers to patients, “so that the practice could retain the customers and continue billing for their visits and prescriptions.”

Soyke also admitted to engaging in sexual conduct with female customers against their will, inappropriately touching them during tests, according to the plea agreement.

Female customers complained about Soyke’s behavior to the clinic’s owners, Dr. Norman Rosen and Dr. Howard Hoffberg, but was not fired, the plea agreement says.

Rosen and Hoffberg have not been charged criminally in connection with the case against Soyke.

“The Defendant saw the largest number of customers at the practice and generated significant revenue for Rosen-Hoffberg,” the agreement reads. Soyke admitted to regularly seeing 35 patients a day.

An attorney for Soyke did not return calls for comment and calls for comment from Hoffberg and Rosen also were not returned.

According to the plea agreement, Soyke “would pre-fill out the customers’ prescriptions based on what the customer received at the previous visit; (Soyke) would simply need to affix his signature or stamp to the prescription to activate it.”

The plea agreement states Soyke previously raising concerns about patient care to Hoffberg, attempting to lower a patient’s dosage, only for the doctor to overrule him.

Federal agents raided the Towson clinic in February 2018, wheeling out file boxes on carts. Members of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General, which is tasked with fighting waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare, Medicaid and other federal programs, were a part of the raid.

According to statistics compiled by ProPublica, in 2016, Soyke made the third-most claims for Medicare coverage out of all prescribers of oxycodone, a popular opioid painkiller, in the entire state.

Maryland’s top three prescribers of oxycodone worked at the clinic in 2016, according to the ProPublica Medicare data. Only Soyke was charged.

Baltimore City officials allege in a civil lawsuit that the Rosen-Hoffberg center ran a “pill mill" that saw significant monetary kickbacks from opioid companies.

In the suit filed against opioid manufacturers, distributors and prescribers, Baltimore City officials say Hoffberg received more than $175,000 in payments from pharmaceutical companies from 2013 to 2016 while he and Rosen prescribed opioids to roughly 90% of their patients.

According to Soyke’s plea agreement, another of the clinic’s medical directors, Dr. Roger Theodore, was in a romantic relationship with a sales representative with Insys, which makes a fentanyl spray called Subsys.

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Theodore did not return calls seeking comment. He, too, has not been charged criminally in connection with this case.

Soyke "was aware that some of Hoffberg’s and Theodore’s customers were prescribed Subsys off-label, meaning they were prescribed to customers who did not have the conditions for which the drug was approved by the FDA,” the agreement reads.

According to the plea agreement, the Rosen-Hoffberg clinic did not discharge patients who had overdosed, were accused of selling pills or had tested positive for illicit drugs.

Soyke admitted that “some of these customers overdosed and died after Dr. Rosen assumed their care after another provider declined to continue to treat them.”

Soyke’s plea reflects a shift in how officials approach the country’s ongoing opioid crisis, as federal and state prosecutors increasingly point toward the prescription opioid industry as one of the main causes of the country’s addiction issue.

Last month, Oklahoma’s attorney general reached an $85 million settlement with Teva Pharmaceuticals, one of the world’s largest generic drug manufacturers, after it was one of several companies sued for its alleged role in leading the state’s opioid addiction problem. That followed the state’s $270 million settlement in March with Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin.

Both companies admitted no wrongdoing as parts of their settlements. Both are being sued by Baltimore City as part of its civil lawsuit.

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