T

he New Jersey state medical board has suspended the license of a doctor accused of “indiscriminately prescribing” a nasal-spray version of the powerful painkiller fentanyl, including to a patient who later overdosed and died.

Dr. Vivienne Matalon, a Cherry Hill, N.J., family physician, agreed to the suspension pending an investigation by the board and a final resolution of professional misconduct allegations filed against her by the state. The voluntary suspension was agreed to on Friday, according to a press release issued Tuesday by state Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino.

The state’s complaint against Matalon alleges that the physician endangered the life and safety of three patients when prescribing them the fentanyl product Subsys, marketed by Insys Therapeutics of Chandler, Ariz. Matalon did not return a telephone message left at her office.

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One of those patients was Sarah Fuller, whose story was chronicled by STAT last month. The 32-year-old New Jersey woman died of a fentanyl overdose after Matalon prescribed her Subsys.

Subsys is approved for use in cancer patients who are suffering sharp bouts of pain despite taking other opioids. But many physicians are prescribing the drug “off-label” for patients such as Fuller who do not have cancer.

Fuller suffered from neck and back pain from two car accidents and had also been diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

Earlier this month, a former Insys executive was charged in a criminal complaint with defrauding insurers to get them to pay for prescriptions of patients who did not have cancer.

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  • So they accepted a voluntary suspension of her license. For how long? It seems to me that “indiscriminate prescribing” of a controlled substance that has led to at least one death ought to result in a permanent license revocation and jail time. The medical board can’t impose jail time, but they can revoke licenses. A temporary suspension doesn’t really protect the public.

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