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Medford foot doctor gets probation for prescription fraud

A Medford podiatrist will serve almost as much time on probation as she did writing fake prescriptions to fuel an addiction.

Patricia Code was sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court in Eugene to three years of probation and community service for a prescription fraud scheme that netted her more than 3,000 illegally obtained pills between May 2016 and June 2019.

Oregon Prescription Drug Monitoring Program data showed that Code obtained 3,036 tablets of the prescription painkiller tramadol, also known by the brand name Ultram, and 88 tablets of the insomnia medication zolpidem or Ambien, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office filing in Code’s case.

Code’s defense lawyer Kristen Winemiller acknowledged in a court filing last week that Code misused the controlled substances, but her client has since “done a superb job of turning her life around.”

“She has successfully maintained complete abstinence from substance abuse, including the use or abuse of alcohol, and has made life changes that provide her with the stability, support and confidence to move forward in her personal life and medical practice,” Winemiller wrote.

The investigation into Code began in the spring of last year with a Medford pharmacist who reported “Code’s suspicious prescription activities,” according to a filing written by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Huynh.

The pharmacist told investigators that Code called in a tramadol prescription for a patient, then tried to pick up the medication “wearing what appeared to be a disguise” to conceal her face.

Code typically used “numerous fake names” that all had Code’s home address to fill the illegal prescriptions, according to Huynh, but also used the identities of relatives who were unaware of the prescriptions.

Huynh states that Code wrote “multiple scripts a month, from multiple pharmacies.” For instance, in May of 2019, Code obtained 230 tramadol pills using five prescriptions.

Federal prosecutors found no evidence any patients were harmed in the years Code used the medications, but called the risk that Code put patients in “unacceptable.”

“[Code] obtained large amounts of pills illegally and used them regularly over a number of years while seeing patients and even performing surgeries,” Huynh wrote.

Oregon State Medical Board records showed no malpractice cases during the time period the crimes occurred. Code’s most recent malpractice case surrounded a 2007 surgery that caused a 61-year-old patient “temporary minor” injury and a delayed recovery.

Since February, the Oregon State Medical Board has allowed Code to practice on the condition that she may not prescribe any controlled substances to a patient. Code’s medical license is valid through the end of 2021, state medical board records show.

On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken sentenced Code to probation and a $100 fine on a single count of acquiring or obtaining possession of a controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception or subterfuge. During the probation period, Code must participate in 150 hours of community service with the Medford nonprofit Reclaiming Lives or its Recovery Cafe program.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.