Patients Loved Him, But 9 Of Them Died: The Story Of Dr. Miller

The online reviews of Dr. Lawrence Miller were glowing.

He’s kind, caring, takes his time, and is the type of doctor that’s so hard to find these days, his patients gushed.

In a Yelp review in May, one patient said there were not enough good things to say about Dr. Miller, a 48-year-old Warminster, Bucks County, resident who operated his family practice on Walnut Street in Lansdale. “He’s the kind of dr you really want when all others have failed you. He always makes you feel comfortable and always welcomes you with a smile and a big hug.”

One month after that review, Miller’s family practice was shut down amid an extensive investigation into illegal prescribing practices.

The once-bustling office where patients reported sitting in the waiting room for hours to see Miller was empty. All that was left was a sign on the door that read:

To all my dear patients,

It is with utmost sadness that I let you know that the office is now closed indefinitely. Please know that my concern and care for you all, as always, will never end and you will be forever in my heart.

Affectionately,

Larry Miller

But authorities allege the doctor perceived as kind and caring by many of his patients had a dark side. He was operating a practice that became a “magnet” for drug addicts and drug traffickers, who became accustomed to obtaining high doses of prescription pills without being examined, prosecutors in Montgomery County allege.

Nine of Miller’s patients died of overdoses since 2016, authorities said.

After a more than year-long investigation that involved undercover informants booking appointments at the practice, Miller was charged Wednesday by the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office with 31 counts of unlawful prescribing and one count of corrupt organizations, as well misdemeanor charges of giving controlled substances to a dependent person.

Miller’s lawyer, Frank Genovese, is a former prosecutor in Montgomery County and served as assistant district attorney there from from 1998 to 2004. In an interview with Patch, he said Miller recognizes what he did was wrong and plans to enter a guilty plea.

Genovese said Miller never intended to harm people, but rather help them.

“He initially thought he could help his patients,” Genovese said, adding that things eventually spiraled out of control for the doctor.

***

The unraveling of Miller’s once-thriving family practice began last summer and is laid out in great detail in a 116-page criminal complaint released this week by the Montgomery County District Attorney.

The first tip came in on Aug. 29, 2017. It was an email about Miller suggesting to police that he needed to be investigated for overprescribing medications and failing to monitor patients taking prescription medications, according to documents filed in connection with the case.

“Addicts are frequenting these doctors for benzos, amphetamines, and opioids, etc. because they write them scripts,” the email said. Investigators with the DEA became involved, pulling Miller’s records from the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General Bureau of Narcotics Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.

RELATED: 4 Doctors Prescribed Opioids To Addicts, Drug Dealers: Montco DA

In addition to revealing he had written more than 17,700 prescriptions for Schedule II controlled substances over the past five-year period, the records showed “several areas of concern,” prosecutors said.

The records indicated he overprescribed medications, including offering combinations of drugs that could be lethal. He was prescribing controlled substances to drug-dependent people, charging documents say. It was also evident that drug addicts were migrating to his practice, including several former patients of Dr. Richard Ruth, who was convicted of multiple drug law violations in 2014, prosecutors said.

Additionally, prosecutors say he was not adhering to the requirements of the prescription drug-monitoring program, which went into effect in January 2017. The system allows doctors to check and see if patients are receiving drugs from other doctors that could harmfully interact with each other. Checking the prescription drug-monitoring program before writing a script for an opioid is required by law, however, prosecutors say Miller had not queried the database a single time in more than a year, but continued to provide opioids to his patients.

Investigators determined Miller wrote prescriptions for high quantities of controlled substances to drug dealers, including people who had lengthy criminal records related to drug-dealing offenses.

Five of those alleged drug dealers cooperated with investigators, charging documents show. One of the alleged dealers received more than 11,100 Oxycodone pills from Miller over a three-and-a-half year period, prosecutors said.

Genovese, Miller’s lawyer, said the doctor “certainly never went in it with the intent to create addicts.” Genovese said Miller was a sole practitioner, and became very busy with his patients.

“Unfortunately he got so busy and had so many patients, he kind of lost control of the situation,” Genovese said

Genovese said he acquired patients from other practices, and he tried to do what he could to help them with their physical discomforts. But, his lawyer acknowledged, he was not following the proper protocols.

***

Authorities, working with the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office, identified nine former patients of Miller who had died of drug overdoses. Five died in 2016, two in 2017, and two in 2018, authorities said.

The victims, who have not been identified by name, include:

VICTIM 1

Male, 46, of Ambler Borough
Date of death: July 27, 2016
Probable cause of death: Combined drug intoxication: cocaine, Fentanyl, amphetamine, Alprazolam, Trazadone, and Fluoxetine.
Case details: Police were dispatched for a report of an unresponsive person. When officers arrived, the deceased man was lying on the couch with foam coming out of his nose and mouth. His roommate told authorities the deceased man took “a lot of” prescription medications. Authorities later determined Miller had written him 27 prescriptions for Oxycodone between November 2012 and the time of his death.

VICTIM 2

Male, 56, of Lansdale Borough
Date of death: Aug. 14, 2016
Probable cause of death: Adverse effects of drugs: Tramadol and Diazepam
Case details: Police were called to a residence on Shaw Avenue for a report of an unresponsive person. When officers arrived, they found the man slumped over in a chair in the living room, “obviously deceased,” charging documents say. The police report stated the deceased “was known to have a prescription medication problem.” The deceased person was found to have 18 prescriptions written from Miller between September 2014 and July 2016, including for Tramadol. A female relative, who lived at the same address, had been prescribed Diazepam by Miller.

VICTIM 3

Male, 20, of Schwenksville
Date of death: Sept. 4, 2016
Probable cause of death: Adverse effects of drugs: Fentanyl, Alprazolam, and Promethazine
Case details: Pennsylvania State Police were called to Smith Road in Schwenksville for the report of an unresponsive male. The 20-year-old was found dead in the bathroom of his home, and there was heroin and syringes found on the scene, information from prosecutors said. A review of the prescription drug monitoring records found he had been prescribed Promethazine-Codeine syrup the day before his death. Eight days before his death, the deceased man had posted an online review of Miller on healthgrades.com, investigators determined.

The review said:

“Dr. Miller has been my parent’s doctor for as long as I can remember. And when I became old enough, he became my doctor as well. He is truly phenomenal and truly cares about each and every one of his patients. He has done a great job helping me with my anxiety and sleep that college is actually possible for me. Thank you for everything Dr. Miller.”

VICTIM 4

Male, 26, of Hatfield Township
Date of death: Sept. 20, 2016
Probable cause of death: Combined drug intoxication, Clonazepam and heroin
Case details: According to information in the charging documents, police officers responded to an apartment on Brookside Drive for the report of an unresponsive person. When officers arrived, they located the man deceased on his bedroom floor. His girlfriend told authorities he was addicted to Oxycodone and was seeing Miller, who was prescribing him that medication as well as Xanax. However, the toxicology report states neither drug was found in his body at the time of his death. He likely died from a combination of Clonazepam and heroin, the coroner said.

VICTIM 5

Male, 52, of Quakertown
Date of death: March 10, 2017
Probable cause of death: Drug overdose: Alprazolam, Lorazepam, Methadone, Gabapentin, Venlafaxine, and O-Desmethylvenlafaxine found in his system.
Case details: Investigators learned this victim had died of a drug overdose at St. Luke’s Hospital. He had recently received two prescriptions from Miller: one for Alprazolam and another for Hydrocodone-Acetaminophen.

VICTIM 6

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Male, 37, of Sellersville
Date of death: May 13, 2017
Probable cause of death: Multiple drug overdoses: Prozac, Oxycodone
Case details: This victim was declared dead in a Delaware County Motel 6. Police were called there for a report of possible drug overdose. When officers arrived, they found the victim lying on the bed, surrounded by syringes. He was pronounced dead on the scene. Between June 2015 and August 2016, the deceased had received 14 prescriptions for Oxycodone from Miller, charging documents state.

VICTIM 7

Female, 38, of Lansdale, living off and on in Marcus Hook, Delaware County
Date of death: Nov. 20, 2017
Probable cause of death: Multiple drug intoxication: cocaine and Fentanyl
Case details: Police in Marcus Hook Borough were called to the scene for a report of a sudden death. The victim was found in a second-floor bedroom, slumped over the bed. There were three prescription pill bottles in the room, as well as a crack pipe and syringes. Police determined she had received 86 prescriptions for Methadone and Clonazepam from Miller between March 2013 and November 2017. Her latest prescription of 360 methadone pills was written and filled on Nov. 20, the day of her death, prosecutors said. Further, prosecutors said, the woman had not been seen by the doctor for more than a year but was still receiving monthly prescription refills for Methadone and Klonopin. Investigators spoke with her husband, who said he and his wife were seeing Miller for heroin drug addiction, and were both prescribed Methadone and Klonopin.

VICTIM 8

Male, 41, of Hatfield
Date of death: Feb. 21, 2018
Probable cause of death: Drug intoxication: heroin, cocaine, Fentanyl, Fluoxetine, Sertaline, Quetiapine, Trazodone
Case details: Officers in Hatfield Borough were called to the scene for a report of a possibly deceased male. When officers arrived, there were “no signs of life.” The deceased man’s parents said he was addicted to prescription pills and had been known to abuse Xanax. Officers located several handwritten notes in the deceased man’s bedroom, including one that had “Dr. Miller” at the top of it, underlined. Another note nearby listed various medications and said “Miller script refill, CVS on Cowpath Road, Hatfield.” A third note included Dr. Miller’s name and $800 next to it. A review of the drug monitoring program database showed the deceased man had received 16 prescriptions from Miller between April 2017 and December 2017, including for Carisoprodol and Alprazolam. However, pill bottles found at his home with Miller’s name on it also included Trazodone, Sertaline, Quetiapine, Fluoxetine and others.

VICTIM 9

Female, 58, of Lansdale
Date of death: March 10, 2018
Probable cause of death: Acute Oxycodone intoxication complicated by ischemic cardiomyopathy with coronary artery disease
Case details: Towamencin Township Police responded to a report of an unresponsive female. When officers arrived, they located the woman lying on her back in the bathroom, not breathing. Her husband told officers he and his wife are both pain management patients at Miller’s office. He said the day of her death, he suspected she had taken 40 Oxycodone pills. He also said she had overdosed the previous week on Tramadol, which prosecutors determined was also prescribed to her by Miller. Records obtained by investigators found she had obtained 190 prescriptions from Miller between March 2013 and February 2018, including for Oxycodone, Oxycontin, Morphine sulfate, and Tramadol. Her most recent prescription for 180 Oxycodone 30mg tablet for 15 days was well over the CDC guidelines for dosage, prosecutors said.

Genovese said Miller was surprised when his office was raided in June, but since then he has been cooperating with investigators. He’s doing “everything he can,” said Genovese, noting the planned guilty plea. Genovese said the exact terms for the guilty plea are being negotiated with prosecutors.

Miller’s bail was set at $100,000 unsecured and he waved his preliminary hearing. His arraignment is set for Nov. 7.

Image via Montgomery County DA

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