Panhandle Doctor Sentenced

Attorney General Charlie Crist announced that Panama City Dr. Thomas G. Merrill was sentenced Monday for multiple charges of wire fraud, health care fraud and distribution of controlled substances. He was convicted by a jury of prescribing large amounts of controlled drugs to "doctor-shopping" patients, five of whom died from overdoses of the medications. Merrill, 70, was sentenced to life in prison.

"The reckless behavior of this man who held himself out as a life-saving professional is appalling," said Crist. "He was nothing more than a drug dealer and will now pay the price for his crimes."

A federal grand jury found that Merrill, a formerly licensed osteopathic physician formerly practicing at Magnolia Medical Clinic in Apalachicola, prescribed controlled substances to patients without performing a physical examination and without determining a sufficient medical necessity to prescribe the drugs. Some of Merrill’s patients appeared to be "doctor shopping" to support their drug habits.

The grand jury also found that Merrill prescribed excessive and inappropriate quantities of controlled substances, failed to monitor the use and abuse of the prescribed controlled substances by patients, and prescribed controlled substances to patients knowing that the patients were addicted to or misusing the controlled substances and wanted additional quantities for their drug habit.

Merrill was convicted in January by a Pensacola federal jury of 98 counts of dispensing or distributing controlled substances, defrauding health care benefit programs and wire fraud.