ATLANTA -- An 11Alive investigation first exposed how an Atlanta doctor was putting patients' lives at risk. Now nearlyseven months later, he can apply to get his license back. Buthe will be closely watched.
Dr. Michael Stanley Johnston was caught up in a DEA raid last October, following an 11Alive undercover investigation. Ourinvestigation exposed how the pain clinic where he was working was, in the words of state officials, nothing more than a "pill mill."
Drug addicts would come from out of state to pay large amounts of cash for powerful prescription painkillers. Dr. Johnston wrote prescriptions for our undercover producer even though our producer never admitted to pain and never saw Dr. Johnston.
At the time,Dr. Johnston denied doing anything wrong, but in March of this year, the Georgia Composite Medical Board suspended his license, and on June 8 Dr. Johnston signed a consent order that would impose heavy restrictions on himbefore he could reapply to practice medicine.
"It's a very strong order," said Jeffrey Lane, the investigator who handed the case for the board.
Dr. Johnston can apply to get his license back on June 28, but first he must complete retraining and take an ethics course and pay the board $30,500 in fines and fees.
However, he will not be allowed to have a DEA license to prescribe controlled substances for at least 7 years. He will be under probation and constant review for 10 years and hemust work in a group practice and only in his specialty of pediatrics.
"Why would you leave a pediatric practice to do this?" we asked as we confronted him last October.
"Why did you only take cash?" asked another reporter on the scene.
Dr. Johnston said nothing.
We've learned that the day the Georgia Health Associates Pain Clinic was raided, officials seized $900,000 from a bank account. It's believed the operators were trying to transfer the moneyto a safe haven.
The case has been turned over to the U.S. Attorney's office in Atlanta, and so far no criminal charges have been filed.
11Alive undercover producer Shawn Hoder received a subpoena to testify at Dr. Johnston's hearing, however, 11Alive station management fought that order, under Georgia's shield law, to protect the separation between journalistic privilege and state investigations.
"We work hard every day to make our community a better place to live, however, we at 11Alive never want to be the right arm of law enforcement," said 11Alive News Director Ellen Crooke.