Doctor Gave Stars Drugs, Report Says
Jules Mark Lusman, whose medical license was revoked last week for prescribing addictive drugs to celebrities, frequently provided narcotics on a “cash-and-carry” basis to the rich and famous, including Winona Ryder and singer-actress Courtney Love, according to a state report.
Lusman, 49, may face criminal prosecution, authorities said Monday.
In its report, the Medical Board of California said the Santa Monica physician’s stated specialty was laser surgery. But he also catered to “the demands of wealthy and/or famous drug-seekers for prescription narcotics which would otherwise have to be obtained on the street,” the report stated.
The doctor frequently made house calls to celebrities, examining them only briefly before prescribing drugs, the report said. Lusman used one drug, the powerful and potentially addictive Demerol, as “his first weapon” against pain complaints.
The doctor charged thousands of dollars for those house calls; in one case, the doctor received a $3,000 “retainer” charged to a sick patient’s credit card. “The reason for such a fee cannot be fathomed,” the medical board concluded.
In total, Lusman’s conduct resembled “the sub-plot of a Raymond Chandler novel,” the board said.
Lusman called the decision “grossly unfair” in an interview Monday with the television program “Inside Edition,” which said he had been interviewed at his mother’s home in South Africa. He also denied any wrongdoing in his treatment of Ryder, star of “Age of Innocence” and “Girl, Interrupted.”
Before the board, Lusman argued that “his care and treatment fell within the standard of care at all times for a physician in his community with his practice emphasis.”
But the report identified eight patients and cited their treatment as grounds for revoking his license. One patient received approximately 360 prescriptions over five years, more than two-thirds from Lusman. The medical board’s report identified patients only by initials. One was identified as C.L., whom the report went on to describe as “a fairly well known musician” who “at one time had been married to Mr. C., who had passed away.”
A spokesman for Love, the widow of rock singer Kurt Cobain, declined to comment on the board’s assertions. Two sources familiar with the investigation, however, confirmed that the C.L. in the report was Love.
A source familiar with several of the people alleged in the report to be patients of Lusman objected that the medical board had violated their privacy by detailing what Lusman’s files contained.
“The California medical board never made any attempt to ascertain the accuracy of the information in Dr. Lusman’s files,” the source said.
According to those files, C.L. was treated by Lusman during the summer of 2001, and received Demerol and prescriptions for syringes and the hypnotic drugs Ambien and Xanax.
She was not the only patient to be prescribed Demerol with the understanding that it would be injected by the patients, the state found.
Candis Cohen, a spokeswoman for the state board, which licenses and regulates California’s 112,000 physicians, said criminal proceedings are possible. “It is very rare for a physician’s license to be revoked,” she said. Statewide, the medical board revoked 38 medical licenses during the year ending on June 30. A state administrative judge determines whether physicians should lose their licenses based on evidence from board investigators.
A spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office declined to say Monday whether the office will consider criminal charges against Lusman. The spokesman also would not say whether the district attorney is investigating other physicians who prescribed addictive painkillers to Ryder.
A native of South Africa, Lusman was once disciplined by medical authorities there for “improper prescription of medications to a patient.”
California authorities were made aware of Lusman’s record when he moved here in 1990, and kept him on probation for two years.
In a probation report in the Ryder case, state investigators and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration reported that Lusman had been “kicked out of South Africa for overmedicating people. He came to California and is the doctor to many celebrity people.” That report did not identify Lusman’s other alleged celebrity clients.
Lusman’s role as a doctor to the stars came to light after police found eight types of prescription drugs in Ryder’s possession last December while booking her for shoplifting.
According to Ryder’s probation report, released Friday, Ryder had 37 prescriptions filled by 30 doctors from January 1996 to December 1998. She obtained the medications from a Rite-Aid drugstore on Sunset Boulevard as well as pharmacies in the San Fernando Valley.
In a subsequent search of Lusman’s home, car and office, state board investigators found the doctor had written several prescriptions to the two-time Oscar nominee under her stage name as well as the alias Emily Thompson. Last March, the state revoked part of Lusman’s license, preventing him from “prescribing, furnishing, dispensing or distributing” controlled substances.
The state board report identified a patient E.T. as a “well known entertainer.” Lusman prescribed painkillers and anti-anxiety medication for E.T.’s “anxious pain,” “insomnia,” scoliosis and injured wrist.
In September 2001, E.T. told Lusman she needed more Vicoprofen despite having received a prescription for 65 pills days earlier, according to the board. Lusman refilled her prescription with 30 more, the board said.
State regulators also reported that E.T. signed up for cosmetic laser surgery -- Lusman’s stated specialty -- in October 2001. Although no records indicate that either the surgery or a medical exam was performed, E.T. received prescriptions for Vicoprofen, Xanax and a third, unknown drug. The patient paid Lusman $1,000 on that day, state regulators said.
Ryder told county probation officers that she took those and other drugs to treat a herniated disk she suffered while rehearsing for a movie. Days before her arrest, Ryder said, she also injured her arm.
“If the defendant was under ‘pain management guidance,’ then the procedures that are recognized to effect pain were certainly not followed by” Lusman, the Ryder probation report said. “Apparently, he was a popular doctor because he made house calls and hotel calls.”
Lusman lost his license the same day a Los Angeles County judge sentenced Ryder, 31, to three months probation, community service and drug and psychological counseling for shoplifting $5,560 in designer merchandise last year from Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills.
The medical board fined Lusman $74,979.58 to compensate the state for its investigation.
Ryder’s attorney, Mark Geragos, said he knew of no other investigations involving doctors who prescribed drugs to her.
“All were completely legitimate,” Geragos said Monday. “Lusman was legitimate, but I don’t know what his problems are.... The other doctors are well thought of.”
Under state law, Lusman can petition the medical board to get his license reinstated in two to three years. Cohen, the board spokeswoman, said that Lusman would have to prove to the state that his problem is “cured.”
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