A San Diego doctor with a history of drug and alcohol abuse and a felony conviction for prescription fraud can continue practicing medicine, after settling her discipline case with the Medical Board of California.
According to a 22-page settlement and disciplinary order that took effect July 28, Dr. Leonor Alcaraz Ordonez can still practice but must abide by strict conditions of probation for six years, including drug testing, attendance at drug addiction support groups, and paying an independent physician to supervise her medical practice.
In addition, Ordonez cannot write any prescriptions for controlled substances or recommend medical marijuana for her patients. Ordonez, whose office is in Mission Valley, must abstain from drug and alcohol use, undergo psychological counseling, and complete a medical ethics course, among other restrictions.
The Medical Board outlined its case against Ordonez in an accusation filed in December 2016.
That document describes how a federal drug agent learned Ordonez had prescribed controlled substances, including addictive pain medications, for her husband, but "divert(ed) the prescription medication for personal use." A Medical Board investigator dug deeper and discovered Ordonez had written at least 15 prescriptions for her husband, including Tylenol/codeine, diazepam, and hydrocodone, from April 2013 to July 2015.
According to the accusation, Ordonez told investigators that in one seven month period, she wrote nine prescriptions for an opioid for her husband, with each prescription for 90 pills. Ordonez admitted taking “two to three pills a day of her husband’s pain medicine, and "further stated that she peaked using at about four pills of hydrocodone a day."
The evidence in the accusation -- which Ordonez admitted was accurate when she signed the disciplinary order -- includes her admission that she prescribed the controlled substances for her husband to help him cope with a rotator cuff injury, even though that injury happened 15 years ago and her husband had never seen a doctor for a follow-up exam or treatment.
A pharmacist at the CVS store on East Palomar Road in Chula Vista told investigators in July 2015, he saw Ordonez waiting for a prescription for controlled substances for her husband. The pharmacist told investigators he "confronted" Ordonez about the medication order, and asked her if she had written that prescription.
According to the accusation, "(Ordonez) replied no, took the prescription, walked out of the store and has not returned since."
Two months later, in September 2015, Ordonez was charged with 20 felonies in San Diego Superior Court, including seven counts of prescription fraud, one count of obtaining a narcotic by a forged prescription, and 12 allegations of insurance fraud. Ordonez later plead guilty to two felonies, including one count of prescription fraud, and was sentenced to three years probation.
Ordonez did not return a phone call to her Mission Valley office. Her attorney, Robert Frank, told NBC 7 Investigates Ordonez "...is happy to be back providing patient care with the Medical Boards' blessing and supervision."
Despite her admitted history of drug abuse, two doctors who evaluated Ordonez last year concluded she is not a threat to her patients, if she remains alcohol and drug-free.
"Dr. Ordonez has potential for re-addiction if she does not participate in the treatment programs," one of the physician experts concluded. "(Her) participation in these programs, as well as monitoring and random drug testing, will be a layer of safety which is needed for Dr. Ordonez to be considered safe to practice medicine."
Frank said Ordonez now provides care for homebound patients, something he said most doctors are unwilling to do. He also said his client has been "clean and sober" and may ask the Medical Board to relax the terms of her probation, or terminate supervision altogether. According to Frank, Ordonez can petition the agency for reconsideration in 2019.
NBC 7 Investigates is reporting on medical professionals accused by the public and the California Medical Board of wrongdoing in order to bring information to the public and increase transparency of medical practices in the San Diego region. Currently, this information is reported by the Medical Board on its website.
Medical professionals are not required to disclose this information to their patients.