A Baltimore doctor, charged with trading sex for drugs and prescribing controlled substances despite the potential for drug abuse and dependency, has had his license suspended in an emergency move by the State Board of Physicians Quality Assurance.
Dr. Arthur M. Lebson, who has offices on Fords Lane in Northwest Baltimore, lost his license Wednesday after the medical board decided that public health and safety demanded emergency action.
"The board was impressed with the fact there was credible evidence Lebson was doing bad things and those things were bad enough that we short-circuited the usual charging procedure, which could have taken weeks or months, to go for summary suspension," said Dr. Israel Weiner, chairman of the state's medical board. "We thought, particularly, his prescribing drugs in an apparently illegal manner was a threat to public health and safety."
Both Dr. Lebson and his attorney, Lawrence Greenwald, declined to comment on the case.
Dr. Lebson, 43, married and the father of four, has been licensed to practice medicine in Maryland since 1974. A specialist in internal medicine and geriatrics, he has privileges at several area hospitals and nursing homes.
But his career began unraveling when the Medicaid Fraud Unit of the state attorney general's office discovered "patients who alleged Dr. Lebson prescribed controlled substances to patients with known substance abuse problems in return for sexual favors," according to the board.
When the Medicaid Fraud Unit alerted the State Board of Physicians Quality Assurance to its findings last month, the board launched its own investigation. This investigation found Dr. Lebson had:
* Requested sexual favors from female patients in return for drugs and had cut down their prescriptions if they did not comply.
* Prescribed potentially addictive drugs for a long period of time to known drug addicts.
* Continued over several years to provide a known drug addict with a drug after the patient showed signs of physical dependence on the drug.
* Prescribed simultaneously stimulants and hypnotics.
* Prescribed opiates to pregnant patients despite the serious risk of harm to the unborn child.
* Prescribed large quantities of the anti-anxiety drug Xanax to patients over long stretches of time without periodically assessing whether the drug was working.
Dr. Weiner said Dr. Lebson had asked during a hearing Wednesday if he could limit his practice to patients in nursing homes until charges were heard by a judge, rather than face the summary suspension.
Dr. Weiner, who abstained from voting because he knew Dr. Lebson, said the board felt Dr. Lebson "should not be practicing during this period of time which could take months."
Dr. Lebson can request a hearing to appeal the suspension within 30 days, and a hearing on the charges would be held at a later date.
The State Board of Physicians Quality Assurance has aggressively pursued malfeasance since 1988, when its investigative and prosecutorial staffs were substantially increased. In 1985, there were a total of 20 disciplinary actions; this year, there have been 45.
Carl Ameringer, the assistant attorney general who worked on the Lebson case, said he could not answer whether there will be criminal charges brought against the doctor.
The identities of the 16 patients who described their experiences with Dr. Lebson were not disclosed by the state board.