Hospital CEO among six arrested for suspected prescription drug scam

The CEO of a small Georgia hospital was arrested last week along with two physicians and three others who allegedly ran a long-standing prescription drug scam, according to WSB-TV.

Enforcement officials from Union County in Georgia, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and North Carolina arrested six individuals including Mike Gowder, the CEO of Union General Hospital, a small 45-bed hospital in Blairsville, Georgia. Police say Gowder accepted thousands of prescriptions for pain medications, which were filled in three different states. One physician, Dr. James Heaton, allegedly wrote more than 15,000 fraudulent prescriptions for oxycodone over the course of three years, according to WSB-TV.

Four members of Gowder's family were also arrested as part of the raid in which federal officials confiscated hundreds of documents from the hospital.

The board of directors at Union General Hospital released a statement on Thursday placing Gowder on paid administrative leave, installing an interim CEO and pledging to "cooperate fully with the ongoing investigation."

Prescription fraud and doctor shopping has caused concern for many state health officials as the growth in heroin overdoses has been traced to opioid overprescribing. Meanwhile, Part D spending on commonly abused opioids has grown 156 percent in the last nine years, reaching nearly $4 billion in 2014. In January, a licensed psychiatrist in New York was found to have a history of prescription fraud that dated back 30 years.

To learn more:
- read the WSB-TV report
- here's the board of directors' statement