Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino and the Division of Consumer Affairs today announced that the state Board of Medical Examiners (“the Board”) has permanently revoked the license of a Bergen County psychiatrist who was convicted of illegally distributing the prescription drug Adderall.
Authorities say Dr. James Cowan, Jr., who practiced from a home office in Ridgewood, agreed to forfeit his license to practice medicine in a Consent Order signed immediately after he pleaded guilty in Bergen County Superior Court last week.
According to authorities, Cowan’s criminal conviction comes a year and a half after his medical license was temporarily suspended by the Board amid allegations he indiscriminately prescribed Controlled Dangerous Substances (CDS) to patients; failed to keep proper patient records; and aided and abetted the unlicensed practice of medicine by allowing his wife to use his pre-signed prescription blanks to dispense drugs like Adderall and Xanax to his patients. Cowan has been barred from practicing since agreeing to the temporary suspension in June 2016.
Adderall is an amphetamine used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Narcolepsy.
In May 2016, the state filed allegations that Cowan allowed his wife, a clinical social worker, to continue running his medical practice when he became too ill to work. While confined to a hospital, and then a nursing home, the 72-year-old Cowan allegedly pre-signed prescription blanks for his wife to dispense highly addicting drugs to his patients, many of whom exhibited signs of drug seeking behavior. Cowan’s wife, who was also prosecuted for her misconduct, has since died.
According to the State’s allegations, Cowan’s office manager told investigators that Cowan’s patients exhibited drug seeking behaviors and were often aggressive. Patients wandered into the upstairs private bedroom area to find Cowan, instead of waiting in the basement office area to be seen, and Cowan routinely left prescriptions for patients in an outside mailbox for after-hour pickups, according to the office manager.
Cowan agreed to the temporary suspension of his license pending further action by the Board. Under the terms of the Consent Order, Cowan was required to surrender all prescription pads, and any CDS in his possession, except for those lawfully prescribed for his own use. On March 1, 2017, Cowan was arrested in Bergen County on charges related to the distribution of CDS.
The charges stemmed from an investigation that began in February 2016 when detectives from the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, in an undercover capacity, visited Cowan’s office, posing as new patients. During these office visits, the undercover officers received prescriptions for medications from Cowan in exchange for cash payments. The undercover detectives were not physically evaluated by Cowan or anyone else at his office, but instead were issued prescriptions for Xanax and Adderall.
According to authorities, Cowan pleaded guilty on November 30th to one count of knowingly or purposely distributing a controlled dangerous substance, namely Adderall; a third degree crime. Under the terms of the plea agreement, Cowan was required to permanently forfeit his license to practice medicine. The state will recommend that Cowan be sentenced to non-custodial probation for a term to be determined by a judge when Cowan is sentenced on January 12, 2018.
Patients who believe that they have been treated by a licensed health care professional in an inappropriate manner can file an online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504- 6200.