The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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August 22, 2009

License suspended for doctor facing drug charges

LIGONIER — A local family practice doctor has had his license suspended while facing drug charges.

Dr. Christian M. Vittone, 35, was accused of conspiring with a patient to obtain prescription drugs.

Attorney General Tom Corbett in June announced the arrest of Vittone and longtime patient Michael Miller, 49, of Blairsville, on numerous charges.

Vittone began treating Miller in 2006 for pain, at first legitimately prescribing Percocet, Valium and Ativan, according to a criminal complaint.

Once those were not managing his pain, the complaint says, Miller asked Vittone for more drugs.

Investigators say Vittone told him to get names of family members or others to get more prescriptions. Soon, Vittone was also writing prescriptions in the name of Miller’s wife, Miller’s mother and two of Miller’s employees, the complaint says. Miller passed the prescriptions at various pharmacies and received thousands of pills.

Miller kept many of the pills for personal use, but investigators say he returned many to Vittone.

In addition, the complaint said, Vittone wrote prescriptions for more than 3,000 oxycodone pills under the names of his girlfriend and ex-wife.

“Prescription-strength pain relievers are powerful and highly addictive substances,” Corbett said. “Just like illegal narcotics, these drugs can cause a normally responsible adult to do things seemingly out of character. In this case, we have a doctor who allegedly violated his medical oath to feed his and a friend’s dependence.”

Vittone is charged with eight counts of practicing outside the scope of the patient relationship, three counts of acquisition of a controlled substance through misrepresentation, four counts of insurance fraud and one count of criminal conspiracy.

Miller is charged with four counts of acquisition of a controlled substance through misrepresentation and one count each of insurance fraud and criminal conspiracy.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled Sept. 2 at the office of District Judge Denise Thiel in Ligonier.

A preliminary hearing on Vittone’s medical license was scheduled Friday before a state Board of Medicine committee. That was indefinitely postponed when Vittone agreed to take a license suspension of up to six months.

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