Florida pill mill doctor could face 350-year prison sentence

A South Florida doctor faces a maximum sentence of 350 years for his role in a Pompano Beach “pill mill.”

A jury in Broward County convicted Dr. Thomas Rodenberg, 54, of 14 criminal charges. These included trafficking of oxycodone (a narcotic painkiller), racketeering, illegal delivery of controlled substances and conspiracy.

In 2012, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency led an investigation into the pain clinic where Rodenberg was employed. It resulted in the arrest of 11 people. During the sting, which spanned three years, undercover police posed as patients and obtained medically unnecessary prescriptions for controlled substances.

According to police, undercover officers obtained 55 prescriptions for nearly 3,000 doses of oxycodone.

Many people legitimately suffer from debilitating pain and need narcotic painkillers to cope. Unfortunately, the lure of personal profit drives some unscrupulous doctors and clinics to prescribe the drug for their own financial gain, not according to the true needs of patients.

If you have been injured due to pharmaceutical negligence or pill mills, contact the attorneys at Joyce and Reyes.

NFL and GE partner to award brain injury research grants

The National Football League (NFL) has taken a lot of heat over its alleged lack of safeguards to prevent and mitigate brain injury in its players. A number of former players, suffering from a range of neurological symptoms, have filed lawsuits against the league. Now, the NFL is taking the initiative to advance the science behind the little-understood phenomenon of traumatic brain injury (TBI).

The NFL has partnered with GE to provide $20 million in grants to researchers working to advance the diagnosis and treatment of mild TBI. They recently announced 16 winners in the first stage of the “Head Health Challenge.” Each winner will receive a $300,000 research grant, and up to six more will receive a further $500,000 in 2015.

Over 400 entries from 27 countries were received in the contest. Its stated goal is to improve safety for athletes, military troops and the general public.

Banyan Biomarkers, Inc. of Alachua, Florida is one winner. The company is developing a blood test to rapidly detect mild and moderate brain trauma. Banyan researchers will work with University of Florida athletes to study biomarkers, cognitive testing and neuroimaging on athletes with concussions.

Another winner is the University of California, Santa Barbara. The UCSB Brain Imaging Center is developing computer software to identify individual damaged brain connections using MRI scans.

Accurate diagnosis of TBI remains difficult, treatment even more so. TBI is very common among auto accident victims, and its debilitating effects can last for years.

NTSB Issues Recommendations for Eliminating Substance-Impaired Driving

Each year, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) releases a list of their top ten advocacy and legislative priorities for increasing transportation safety in the United States. They call it their “Most Wanted” list, and for 2014, one of the items is the elimination of substance-impaired driving.

According to the NTSB, 90 percent of all transportation-related deaths occur in motor vehicle accidents. Many of these involve alcohol or drug impairment and are therefore considered completely avoidable. In the past decade, more than 119,000 people have been killed in auto accidents involving alcohol impairment. According to a AAA study, about one in seven drivers admits to having driven when suspecting him- or herself to be over or close to the legal BAC limit.

The problem extends beyond alcohol. Over-the-counter, prescription and illegal drugs can also cause impairment. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that more than 10 million people admitted to driving under the influence of illegal drugs within the previous year.

Efforts to prevent impaired driving can be divided into general deterrents and specific deterrents. General deterrents are aimed at the general public, and they include legal limits on blood alcohol content (BAC) and high-visibility enforcement campaigns. Specific deterrents are used to encourage those who have been caught driving while impaired to refrain from doing so again. These include jail terms, fines and license revocation.

The NTSB points out that conventional deterrents are often ineffective in cases where the individual has a substance abuse problem. Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) courts aim to change offender behavior by focusing on accountability and long-term treatment with close, comprehensive supervision.

The agency has also highlighted technological advances for curbing impaired driving. Passive alcohol sensors are small electronic devices built into police flashlights or clipboards that detect alcohol in the ambient air. They do not require a suspect’s cooperation, as they can work from outside a vehicle’s open window. Ignition interlock devices can be installed in offenders’ cars, requiring them to breathe into the device for a BAC reading before the car can be started.

The NTSB advocates a reduction of the BAC at which a driver is presumed impaired from the current 0.08 percent to 0.05 percent. It also recommends incorporating the use of passive alcohol sensors into enforcement efforts, expanding the use of ignition interlocks and developing best practices for DWI courts.