A West Hollywood doctor who wrote more than 1,200 prescriptions for powerful painkillers after his authority to prescribe those drugs was revoked was sentenced today to six months in federal prison and a year in a halfway house.
James Eisenberg, 73, of Venice pleaded guilty last August to one count of distribution of hydrocodone, the generic drug found in brand-name products such as Vicodin and Norco.
Eisenberg was named in an indictment charging him with four counts of using a revoked U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration registration number and three counts of distribution of hydrocodone.
The illegal prescribing of opiates is “a huge societal problem,” U.S. District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald said, adding that among Eisenberg’s clients was a well-known Hollywood actor. Court papers referred to the actor only by the initials C.F., “a celebrity with a notorious drug addiction history.”
Arguing for a prison sentence of four years, Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Barron told the court that Eisenberg had violated the basic principles of medicine.
“His job is to care for his patients,” the prosecutor said. “Instead, he fed their addictions for cash.”
Making an unsuccessful appeal for a period of home confinement, defense attorney David K. Demergian told the judge that Eisenberg acted out of depression and fear that he could not provide for his family.
The crimes were “misguided, pathetic and, on some level, desperate,” Demergian said.
Barron, however, countered that Eisenberg acted “out of greed, not depression, and continued to violate the law and hurt his patients.”
Prosecutors contend Eisenberg wrote prescriptions for $200 each while he worked out of medical offices in West Hollywood, including a Santa Monica Boulevard storefront he called Pacific Support Services. He also issued “medical marijuana” recommendations from the West Hollywood locations, according to court documents and DEA records.
In December 2011, a DEA administrative judge determined that Eisenberg acted as a “drug dealer” and suspended his registration number. The DEA issued an order permanently revoking Eisenberg’s registration in July 2012, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.