Now that a Georgia doctor is heading to prison, the Georgia Composite Medical Board finally has taken action on his medical license -- four years after the raid on the pill-mill clinic where he worked.
As of April 12, the board's website still showed that Dr. Paul Ruble was actively licensed and had not been subjected to any disciplinary actions by Georgia. But April 13, the board signed an order accepting the voluntary surrender of his license.
The board took that action after reviewing his sentencing during its April meeting, Karl T. Reimers, the board's deputy executive director, said.
"Once the sentencing happened and the board saw he was going to go to prison, we had to decide if we wanted to seek revocation," Reimers said. "But in lieu of going through the formal process and have hearings, we offered him the opportunity to surrender his license."
The board had been aware of the ongoing criminal investigation against Ruble for some time, but it did not proceed with its own investigation while law enforcement was pursuing its case, Reimers said.
"In certain cases like this, where the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) is involved, the DEA asks us to curtail our investigation while it does theirs," said Reimers, who oversees investigations and enforcement for the board.
DEA officials did not respond to a request for comment.
Reimers also said that the board had learned that Ruble was not practicing when he had to give up his DEA license and could no longer write prescriptions. Court records show that in October 2015, as a condition for his release from federal custody following his indictment, Ruble was ordered not to prescribe controlled drugs.
Because Ruble was no longer in practice, patients were not at risk so the board didn't have a legal basis to take emergency action against him, according to Reimers.
"We tend to try to be more administrative than punitive," Reimers also said. "The board has taken a position, in an arrest without a conviction, that person is innocent until proven guilty. If the case involves an immediate danger to the public, then the board can go in and take action."
He didn't explain why the board didn't act last August, when Ruble pleaded guilty to felony drug charges, though Reimers noted that the doctor was no longer in practice. In some states, the AJC found in a national investigation, boards don't have to hold the usual due process proceedings when a doctor is convicted of a felony; in a few states, revocation is required upon convictions.
(You can read more about whatRuble did by clicking here: http://investigations.blog.ajc.com/2017/04/05/georgia-drug-dealer-keeps-his-doctor-license-four-years-after-pill-mill-raid/ )
( You can also read Ruble's arguments against the charges here: http://www.leagle.com/decision/In%20FDCO%2020160504B76/U.S.%20v.%20Ruble )
Georgia will report to the Data Bank that Ruble voluntarily surrendered his license, but not the criminal conviction, Reimers said. However, after Ruble is released from prison, should he seek a license in other states, and if those states contact Georgia to inquire about the voluntary surrender, the board will then provide information on the conviction.
Reimers said he couldn't speak for the board on why voluntary surrender orders don't include information about a doctor's criminal record, so the public would be informed. It may be because the board is really focused on the license, he said. But Reimers said he would take that question to the board.
We'll update if the board considers the issue.