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Board rebukes detox doctor

Times Staff Writer

A Beverly Hills physician accused of over-prescribing addictive drugs to celebrity clients, including rock star Ozzy Osbourne, has been publicly reprimanded by the Medical Board of California for poor record-keeping, his lawyer said this week.

The admonishment ends a nine-year investigation of Dr. David A. Kipper, who originally came under fire for operating lavish, unlicensed detoxification programs for Hollywood figures and other clients in hotel suites and on private estates. The decision was reached in September but not released publicly.

The board three years ago accused Kipper of gross negligence in the care of eight patients and threatened to take away his medical license.

Kipper’s attorneys, John D. Harwell and Deborah D. Drooz, characterized the board penalty as a “slap on the wrist” and a “throwaway sanction.”

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Kipper has been “completely vindicated of wrongdoing,” Harwell said.

But Deputy State Atty. Gen. Richard D. Marino, who ran the investigation, said the findings did not absolve Kipper but rather reached an “appropriate resolution” of the complex case.

“People often misunderstand our role,” Marino said. “Our role is not necessarily to punish doctors, but to protect the public. To the extent that physicians do things inappropriately, we try to rehabilitate them. Kipper did things wrong, but he learned from his mistakes. Kipper used to push the envelope. Not anymore.”

Kipper, 57, was well known in Hollywood circles for treating celebrities for addiction in private settings with a mix of medications that he promised would offer a quick and painless detoxification.

The program was seen as a discreet alternative to traditional drug rehabilitation, which can last months and require years of follow-up therapy.

The UCLA-trained internist is on the staff at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and has been treating patients for decades at an office in Beverly Hills behind the five-star Peninsula hotel. Kipper’s A-list client roster included movie stars, film producers, musicians and entertainment executives.

Critics said his treatments were ineffective, that patients often relapsed and that he prescribed habit-forming medications to patients after detoxification was completed.

Two weeks after the medical board filed its complaint, Osbourne told The Times that he blamed over-medication by Kipper for the disoriented behavior he exhibited on his reality TV series “The Osbournes.”

“I was wiped out on pills,” said Osbourne, who later filed his own complaint with the board. “I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t walk. I could barely stand up. I was lumbering about like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. It got to the point where I was scared to close my eyes at night -- afraid I might not wake up.”

The board began investigating Kipper in 1998 but did not file a complaint until Nov. 26, 2003.

Kipper mounted a fierce defense, refusing to surrender patient records on grounds of confidentiality. Ultimately, a court ordered Kipper to turn over the files and pay a $90,000 fine plus fees.

In February 2004, Kipper negotiated a settlement to save his medical license by agreeing to a period of probation, sources close to the investigation said. Kipper backed out of the agreement after Cedars-Sinai Medical Center warned that he would not be allowed to treat patients at the hospital while his license was on probationary status.

The settlement was put on hold when Osbourne filed his complaint, accusing Kipper of putting him on a regimen of habit-forming drugs after charging tens of thousands of dollars for detoxification.

The board dismissed Osbourne’s complaint after the singer failed to show up for interviews with investigators, according to people familiar with the investigation. By the time the investigators reviewed Osbourne’s charts, Kipper’s record-keeping practices had improved, those sources said.

chuck.philips@latimes.com


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