Wysox doctor faces felony charge; Dr. Constance Sweet arrested for allegedly prescribing controlled substances to drug-dependant patients
Wysox doctor Constance Sweet was charged Tuesday with one count of a felony charge of prescribing outside accepted treatment principals, which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to a press release issued Tuesday by the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General.
Sweet, 44, was also charged with one count of dispensing/prescribing to a drug dependant person, which is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $5,000 fine, according to the press release.
Narcotics agents from the Attorney General's Office arrested Sweet on the charges on Tuesday, the press release said.
Sweet's arrest was for allegedly prescribing controlled substances to drug-dependant patients and outside the scope of accepted treatment principles, the press release said.
Attorney General Tom Corbett said that Dr. Constance Sweet is a family practitioner in Wysox who allegedly prescribed narcotic pain medications, such as Vicodin and Percocet, to patients in order to treat drug addictions.
In interviews with The Review well before charges were filed, Sweet acknowledged she was being investigated, said she was cooperating, and denied any wrong-doing.
She was asked months ago by The Review about reports of an investigation which, as far as The Review could determine at that time, had begun at least as far back as early last year. She expressed concern for patients she said told her they endured pain, but denied any wrongdoing. Her records were examined, she hired an attorney, and told investigators she had done nothing wrong, she said.
Earlier this year, she said she had had no further contact with investigators since the previous July.
Efforts in the past by The Review to contact the state police for documentation were not successful. Repeated calls, the most recent of which was last month, to the investigator at the Towanda barracks Dr. Sweet identified, were not returned.
Evidence and testimony regarding the case was presented to a statewide investigating grand jury, which recommended the criminal charges that were filed on Tuesday, according to the press release.
Corbett said that, allegedly, there were a number of patients who Sweet knew to be addicted to drugs, yet she prescribed them controlled substances, including up to 120 tablets of Percocet each month for a patient who complained to Sweet of hand and wrist pain due to intravenous drug abuse.
According to the grand jury, Sweet's patient profile included numerous individuals who are known drug violators and drug addicts, the press release said.
Corbett said that Sweet also allegedly prescribed Percocet to help wean a patient off other pain medication. According to the grand jury, Sweet was aware that this patient was addicted to Percocet, yet continually prescribed it.
During the months of July, August, and September of 2008, a male undercover narcotics agent from the Attorney General's Office visited Sweet's office for treatment as a "heroin addict," according to a written statement by the grand jury, which was filed Tuesday in Wysox District Court.
Sweet prescribed methadone, 10 mg., three times daily, for the undercover agent's reported addiction and directed him to sign a "chronic narcotics usage" policy for long term pain management in order to obtain monthly prescriptions from Sweet, according to the written statement, which is referred to as Sweet's grand jury presentment.
Sweet prescribed methadone to the undercover agent, knowing that her practice is not a clinic authorized to prescribe methadone, according to the grand jury presentment.
A female undercover narcotics agent from the Attorney General's Office testified to the grand jury that she obtained a prescription for Hydrocodone-Acetaminophen, 7.5 mg/325, a Schedule III controlled substance, from Sweet as treatment for her "drug addiction," according to the grand jury presentment.
While there, the female undercover agent signed a "chronic narcotics usage" policy for long-term pain management in order to get monthly prescriptions from Sweet, the grand jury presentment states. However, Sweet cautioned the female undercover agent to be careful because she was being investigated by agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Attorney General's office, the presentment states.
The Review's attempts to reach Sweet for comment on Tuesday were unsuccessful.
When a reporter arrived at Sweet's house Tuesday evening, Sweet's husband, Tice Sweet, greeted the reporter and did not allow the reporter to speak to Dr. Sweet.
Tice Sweet referred all questions to Sweet's attorney.
The Review's attempts to locate the attorney were unsuccessful.
Constance Sweet was arraigned on the charges before Wysox Magisterial District Judge Fred Wheaton on Tuesday; she was then released on $25,000 unsecured bail, said Eric T. Shirk, a spokesman for the Attorney General's Office.
Constance Sweet must attend a preliminary hearing on the charges on Oct. 13, which will be held at a magisterial district court in Bradford County, Shirk said.