MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - A former psychiatrist who practiced in Auburn and Gulf Shores was sentenced to probation following a federal pill mill case.
James Edwards, who was at one time charged with drug distribution in an 87-count indictment, will serve no prison time.
Edwards pleaded guilty to one count of information for aiding or abetting the acquisition of a controlled substance by fraud.
The judge accepted the plea agreement during Thursday’s hearing, stating initially that he was concerned about the leniency of the noncustodial sentence.
A federal prosecutor explained this case was different than other high-profile pill mill cases in the Middle District, acknowledging there was insufficient evidence of medical fraud. They added that given Edwards’ limited scope as a psychiatrist, he did not prescribe opioids and he was in his 70s, all factors that they believed warranted a reduced sentence.
Prior court records outlined allegations of Edwards’ excessive prescribing habits, writing prescriptions for addictive drugs outside the course of general medical care. Records cited pharmacists at 11 different pharmacies, seven in Opelika and four in Gulf Shores, disclosed their concerns about Edwards prescribing history to federal agents. At that time, Walmart had a corporate policy against filling Edwards’ prescriptions, according to public records.
The judge reminded Edwards that this was a serious offense and imposed a two-year probationary sentence. Edwards will not pay fines or restitution.
As part of the plea agreement, Edwards will surrender all medical and processional licenses.